Drought conditions leave crop growth in the dust

The majority of the County of Wetaskiwin is facing a crop crisis due to the lack of rain this growing season has seen.

CROP CRISIS - The majority of the County of Wetaskiwin is facing a crop crisis due to the lack of rain this growing season has seen. Pictured is a canola field near Falun.

CROP CRISIS - The majority of the County of Wetaskiwin is facing a crop crisis due to the lack of rain this growing season has seen. Pictured is a canola field near Falun.

The majority of the County of Wetaskiwin is facing a crop crisis due to the lack of rain this growing season has seen.

Grain crops such as wheat, canola and barley, as well as pastures are quite a bit behind what they should be by this time, says Stephen Majek, county director of agricultural services. “Our hay and pasture are well below average.”

He says he is noticing producers that would normally be bringing in 300 bales are getting 80 to 130 from the same land.

He believes producers that have already cut their hay once may be able get a second cut in if more moisture comes.

“A lot of our pastures were getting brown,” said Majek.

Patchy rains across the county have left some fields in a greener state than others but even fields that have grown uniformly are about two weeks behind in their maturity.

“Our crops are shorter than they should be,” said Majek. More rain will not help the grains grow taller but it would help them filling head.

If the crops do not receive the moisture they need there will be very little to harvest this year, says Majek.

Hardships stemming from the state of the crops will extend into fall and winter as a below average pasture yield will create a feeding shortage for cattle.

Majek has been looking online to see what the market looks like and says bales that would normally sell for $65 to $80 are going for $110 to $120. “People are realizing there’s a shortage,” he explained.

“Because we’re at anywhere from a quarter to one-third of the production people are going to have to start feeding earlier,” he added. “As far as range and pasture goes it’s going to be pretty tough for feeding.”

Majek says some cattle operations will have to cope by selling some of the livestock.

To add another problem to the long list producers are facing, swaths of grasshoppers have plagued the county. The County of Wetaskiwin is promoting the use of EcoBran to control the grasshoppers and one bag can treat 20 acres.