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Spring moisture a blessing for area fields and farmers

Posted on June 6, 2024 by admin

By Alejandra Pulido-Guzman
Southern Alberta Newspapers

With moisture being essential for farming the drought has put farmers’ schedules behind, but the recent precipitation has helped move the process along.

Ken Coles, executive director of Farming Smarter spoke to Southern Alberta Newspapers May 27 and said the recent precipitation will help southern Alberta in a big way.

“Our reservoirs were completely depleted, our soil profiles were completely depleted and to have this amount of rain right now is pretty much heaven-sent. It will generate billions of dollars in revenue for southern Alberta,” said Coles.

He explained that southern Albertans live in a semi-arid region, where there is more water leaving the system by evaporation than the amount of precipitation we are getting, and the area has been experiencing below normal precipitation for many years.

Water is everything to agriculture, said Coles.

“The area that I cover is basically south of Highway 1 and in that area there’s close to 14 million acres of rain-fed agriculture and about 1.7 million acres of irrigation, which has been tremendously beneficial to developing value-added industries like potatoes, seed, canola, dry beans, sugar beets and so on,” said Coles.

He said due to drought conditions farmers have to come up with practices that will protect the soil and conserve as much moisture as possible because moisture is the single limiting factor in crop production in this area.

“Irrigation helps but only if we have water and this year water supplies were depleted to basically nothing. So this big rain in March, which is above average, helped fill the soil profiles in all that dry-land agriculture,” said Coles.

He said lack of moisture creates complications for the farming process as it delays seeding, but thanks to the recent precipitation farmers are happy to be able to get that seeding done.

“We are definitely behind schedule, but I think there’s been a lot done. There has been lots of times where we’re done seeding by the beginning of May, and we are still seeing lots of seeders rolling,” said Coles.

He said a lot of farmers are done seeding now, but others would probably be done soon.

When asked about seeding schedules affecting harvest time, Coles said it is too early to tell as that will depend on growing conditions that are yet to come. He used corn as an example.

“It’s possible that the corn might be a tiny bit late, but if it’s really hot it can catch up. I think we might have a slightly later harvest than we are used to, but we don’t know what’s going to happen yet,” said Coles.

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