'Year of uncertainty': Rainy, cool summer puts damper on crops in central, northern Alberta

Farmers from Red Deer to Alberta’s northern border are expecting fewer crop yields thanks to more rain and cooler-than-average temperatures this summer.

'It's something no one can control so we have to wait it out and see what happens'

Farmers unload canola while harvesting on Barry Lang's farm near Beiseker, Alberta. (Todd Korol/Reuters)

Farmers from Red Deer to Alberta's northern border are expecting lower yields this year thanks to a rainy, cooler-than-average summer.

Crop conditions in the northeast and northwest portion of the province have deteriorated since July 30, according to the Aug. 13 Alberta Crop Report.

The growth of spring-seeded cereals is delayed in the central, northeast and northwest regions, reads the report.

Haying is behind in the northeast, northwest and in the Peace region, with 43 per cent of the crops ranked good to excellent.

That's a drop from the five-year average of 68 per cent.

It's too early to tell exactly how much of a loss Alberta farmers in the northern part of the province will have, but many are expecting some losses, said Humphrey Banack, an Alberta Federation of Agriculture board member.

Banack, who farms in the Camrose area, said many crops are two to three weeks behind schedule because of the wet weather.

"For our farm this year, we've had 15 inches of rain since the first of May. We're usually in that 10-inch mark. It's been a lot more water," said Banack.

Canola crops struggling

Many canola farmers in the northern half of the province are also concerned about their yields this year, according to Alberta Canola staff.

Frost and large amounts of rain has affected canola crops in the Peace River area.

"We don't have a handle on how widespread this is. We won't know until the harvest season is over," said Ward Toma, general manager of Alberta Canola. 

Toma said it's been a rough year for canola farmers in Alberta China's ban on Canadian canola and this summer's wet soil conditions in most of the province has made it challenging, he added.

"It's the year of uncertainty. With China, we still don't know what's going on," said Toma. 

"We don't have any resolution on the trade issues. With the weather, it's something no one can control so we have to wait it out and see what happens."

Canola crops in parts of northern Alberta have been affected by the poor weather, experts say. (Lindsay Bird/CBC)

Sara Hoffman, an Environment and Climate Change Canada meteorologist, said it's been a rainy summer for most of the areas north of Red Deer.

Edmonton received roughly 117 millimetres of rain in June, much more than the 78 millimetres of rain the city has averaged over the last 30 years. 

July wasn't much better. Edmonton received about 164 millimetres of rain in July. The 30-year average sits around 94 millimetres.

After a rainy growing season, Banack said he and other farmers are now looking to a better harvest season next month.

He's hoping the frost stays away for at least a month so crops can grow. 

If frost doesn't arrive late September, "we'll be all right," Banack said.

"If we get frost here in the first week of September, there's going to be dramatic losses."


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