Calgary

Record hot, dry weather leaves crops stunted on southern Alberta farms

A southern Alberta farmer says he's becoming more of a believer in climate change every day as an unprecedented stretch of hot, dry weather withers away his crops.

Province expands fire ban zone to include areas south of Red Deer River along Foothills to Waterton park

Scorched farm in southern Alberta

4 years ago
3:47
Lethbridge-area farmer Kevin Serfas tells the CBC's Rob Brown that his crops are withering in the hot, dry conditions. 3:47

A southern Alberta farmer says he's becoming more of a believer in climate change every day as an unprecedented stretch of hot, dry weather withers away his crops.

Kevin Serfas told CBC Calgary News at 6 host Rob Brown there hasn't been any rain at his operation northeast of Lethbridge since June 10.

"I would say we're probably in worse shape this year than last year," he said.

"We're probably less than half of our normal crop average. So, it's not great."

Environment Canada has heat warnings in effect for about half of the province, stretching from the far south through the eastern part of the province, up to the northern border with the Northwest Territories.

For Cardston, Lethbridge, Cypress Hills, and Medicine Hat daily highs are predicted to be near 32 C with overnight temperatures near 16 C until Friday.

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry expanded a fire ban Thursday to include the entire area south of the Red Deer River along the mountains and Foothills to the northern boundary of Waterton Lakes National Park.

An extended stretch of hot, dry weather in southern Alberta has farmers facing reduced crop yields and officials issuing fire bans. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

The ban includes open fires at campgrounds; however, gas and propane stoves and barbecues and portable fire pits are still permitted.

"Over the past few weeks we have seen very little rain in the southern parts of Alberta. This has pushed the fire hazard to extreme levels throughout the forest, creating tinder-dry conditions and increased wildfire risk," Agriculture and Forestry Minister Oneil Carlier said in a release. 

The City of Lethbridge also expanded its fire restrictions to include all open fires, including backyard fire pits.

May, June and July have been the hottest recorded in the Calgary area since records were started in 1881, according to senior Environment Canada climatologist David Phillips.

Weeks of hot, dry conditions have prompted provincial officials to expand fire bans to include areas south of the Red Deer River along the mountains and Foothills to the northern boundary of Waterton Lakes National Park. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Serfas notes that his father, who farmed around Lethbridge his whole life, says this year's stretch of hot weather is a first for him.

"He's been here 70 years, and he's never seen anything like this, at all," he said.

Serfas says his livestock are also struggling in the heat.

"The heat has definitely taken a toll on the cattle in the feed lot, too. It's too hot, too long. You know, it barely cools down in the evening. So it's been a tough last five weeks," he said.

"It's made me think a lot about climate change, yes."

All the areas in red on this map of Alberta are currently under heat warnings. (Environment Canada)

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