Al­berta farm­ers fret over re­cent sum­mer snow­falls

The Hamilton Spectator - - Canada & World - ALEKSANDRA SA­GAN

Some Al­berta farm­ers are con­cerned about their crops af­ter a late-sum­mer snow­fall blan­keted parts of the prov­ince, with more flur­ries ex­pected in the fore­cast.

Early sea­son snow can squash crops that grow up­right, like wheat and bar­ley, make them harder to har­vest and dec­i­mate their qual­ity, leav­ing farm­ers with a less valu­able prod­uct.

Greg Sears has been grow­ing canola, wheat, bar­ley and peas just north of Grande Prairie, Alta., for about a decade and re­cently had about 15 cen­time­tres of snow cov­ered his crops, push­ing down his ce­real and canola and freez­ing any­thing that wasn’t fully ma­ture yet.

“It’s just go­ing to be a long, slow har­vest from here on in — even if we do get some re­ally nice weather,” he said.

The area needs warm, windy weather to dry the crop, Sears said, adding the cur­rent ground con­di­tions will make it hard for him to get his equipment on the land.

That dif­fi­cult har­vest comes af­ter wild­fires in B.C. ear­lier this year cre­ated ad­di­tional pres­sure with the drift­ing smoke slow­ing down the crop de­vel­op­ment, he said.

The neigh­bour­ing prov­ince saw thou­sands of square kilo­me­tres of wood­land charred by more than 2,000 wild­fires since April, ac­cord­ing to the BC Wild­fire Ser­vice.

In ad­di­tion to slow­ing the har­vest, the snow likely de­te­ri­o­rated the crop qual­ity.

Sears hoped his bar­ley would go to a malt beer brew­ing mar­ket, but now ex­pects it’ll land else­where for a lower price.

He an­tic­i­pates about $100 an acre less in rev­enue than dur­ing a typ­i­cal har­vest.

His wheat will likely fall from milling-grade, which is for hu­man con­sump­tion, to an­i­malfeed qual­ity, he said.

The pea crop will suf­fer on two fronts, he said, ex­pect­ing a qual­ity and yield re­duc­tion.

MATTHEW VISSER THE CANA­DIAN PRESS

Farm­ers work a field near Gib­bons, Alta. on Wed­nes­day. Snow­fall blan­keted parts of the prov­ince and more flur­ries are in the fore­cast.

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