Frost in Alberta could impact harvest decisions
Farmers may need to change strategies on the fly
By Diego Flammini
Assistant Editor, North American Content
To borrow a phrase from the TV show Game of Thrones, “winter is coming.”
But signs of Old Man Winter could be visible sooner than later in some parts of Alberta.
For example, the weather station in Camrose suggests the first local fall frost date could be Sept. 17.
But the weather station in Winfield suggests the frost date in that area was Sept. 1, according to Alberta Agriculture.
Either way, farmers may have to change their harvest decisions as they pertain to late-seeded cereals, according to Clair Langlois, provincial cereal extension specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry.
“As we get deeper into the month of September, the higher the risk will be of severe killing frost, which is temperatures below -2.5 C,” he said during yesterday’s Alberta Agriculture’s Call of the Land podcast. “So any strategies should then change as the month progresses (and farmers) may give more consideration to swathing.”
There are actually four levels of frost damage capable of occurring on cereals, Langlois said, adding that less damage occurs at kernels at the hard dough stage.
Levels of frost damage can vary between no visible kernel damage and extensive damage that can impact yield.
The highest level of frost damage is when the kernels are severely damaged by substantial shrinkage.
“Low bushel weights (can) result and the germination and vigor levels are likely too low to consider keeping it as a feature seed source,” he told Call of the Land.
Producers should keep a few items top of mind when walking the fields and looking for possible frost damage, Langlois said.
Farmers should “check the kernel maturity stage, consider the severity or likelihood of a frost, and then decide whether it would be best to ride out a frost as a standing crop or as a swath crop.
“(And) if it is to be swathed, can you bring it all down at least 48 hours prior to predicted frost?"
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