Farmer Focus: Seth Pascoe’s dry comments tempt fate

My piece about dry Alberta and the wonders of pivot irrigation last month was clearly tempting fate; we’ve had four weeks of unsettled weather.

A severe hailstorm travelled 200 miles across the province, destroying thousands of acres of crops. I drove around to see the extent of the damage from the “great white combine” as it’s known, and it was remarkable.

Fields of 8ft tall maize were reduced to stumps, potatoes stripped bare of all leaves and grain crops levelled. Our farm was unscathed, but after viewing the devastation it made me realise that our crop insurance premium for hail is justified.

The wet weather has spread early blight on to newer potato growth, particularly on more susceptible varieties.

The heavily infected fields and those I plan to harvest last will get another fungicide to maintain maximum photosynthesis. This will be applied by plane, so I don’t have to wait for the field to dry.

Fescue grass seed has been swathed for three weeks. In a brief spell of dry weather, we watched as our neighbours made clouds of dust combining their grass nearby.

So we got excited and stormed out to the field with our combine, only to retreat rapidly as it coughed and spat lumps of yellow chewy grass out of the back. Luckily the seed isn’t germinating, but the seed heads are very brittle; so all I can do is sit and wait for better weather.

We hope to start digging Shepody early potatoes this week, grading and trucking them straight to the processing plant.

I walked across the field today and conditions are still rather wet, so harvest progress will be very steady. But McCain’s insists that we try to get some tonnage to them this week, as this field has near-perfect specific gravities.

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