Bugs, disease, and hail are some of the surprises that have sprung on farmers so far this season when it comes to their crops and despite all that, crops are doing well in Alberta.
Although some farmers in Rocky View County had their crops devastated by the large sized hail that struck on Saturday, July 30, other crops were left alone.
Neil Whatley, a crop specialist with the Alberta Agriculture Information Centre, said many farmers know that hail can strike at any time.
"Hail storms are happening, they happen every year, especially in July and early August. It is devastating for individual farmers. The province overall, because hail is isolated, it does not usually affect provincial yields and quality and things like that. But for the individual farmer, it can be quite devastating and hail is something where you could have a poor neighbor this year beside a rich neighbor because it's got sharp divisions. It can be good or bad within a mile of each other."
While most farmers have hail insurance, that only covers inputs.
"On a promising year like this, it is unfortunate that some farm families are going to have that experience. That's the way hail is. It can divide farmers pretty close to each other. One field could be 50 per cent on one end and 100 per cent on the other. It's not a phenomena but it happens every year and farmers are resilient and they do bounce back and look forward to the next year," added Whatley.
Meanwhile, in other parts of Alberta, crops are thriving with the near-perfect weather conditions the province has been experiencing.
"This time last year, we were in a situation where we were just starting to get some rainfall near the end of July. It ended up being not a bad year, despite the lack of precipitation in May, June and most of July in most of the province," he said. "The farmers have excellent techniques these years of water conservation with improved machinery and there's a lot of wisdom out there in the rural areas and that saved us last year. This year is shaping up like 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 - 2015 was drier - but those four years, we had pretty good rainfall and that's the case again this year."
Farmers in Central Alberta got a bit of a surprise this year when they were infested with crop bugs known as the Pea Leaf Weevil.
"Pea Leaf Weevil is an insect that's been bad in Southern Alberta for several years - close to ten years. Growers in those areas are using a seed treatment that helps to mitigate against this insect. That's been helpful but Central Alberta got hit really hard by the Pea Leaf Weevil this year," added Whatley. "It hit areas that we did not expect and it's moving North. There's reports as far north as Ponoka and Wetaskiwin and I've seen quite a bit in Central Alberta."
With this year being a wetter year, disease has also caused a problem for farmers due to the humidity levels in June, which allows a disease to fester amongst the plants.
"We do have a fair bit this year that can compromise yield and quality at times. Most of it's been controlled but there will be some that couldn't get out at the right time. It can spread quite a bit in a matter of 10-14 days. These showers are really what spread the disease," said Whatley.
Despite all the hurdles that appear during a crop growing season, farmers have learned how to be resilient and resourceful.
"It's a work with nature and sometimes nature bites back pretty hard," said Whatley. "But we've got a lot of good farming systems and there's a lot of farmers that are really experts out there and they know how to deal with these issues."