Fields across much of Alberta have been hit hard by both snow and rain
© Jeffrey Heyden-Kaye
Fields across much of Alberta have been hit hard by both snow and rain
Early signs of winter are keeping some combines idle in Western Canada.

Parts of Alberta received several consecutive days of snow, putting grain harvest on hold.

Alberta farmers harvested 31.3 per cent of their spring wheat crop as of Sept. 18, an Alberta Agriculture report says. That number is well below the five-year average of 55.9 per cent.

Canola producers are also feeling the effects of the early snowfalls.

"The snow is slowing wheat and canola farmers down," Denis Guindon, a director with the Alberta Canola Producers Commission, told Farms.com. "The snow is pushing the wheat down so farmers can't harvest the crop. And there's not much canola being harvested because of the snow and fluctuating temperatures.

"We've gone from temperatures of 3 and 4 C during the day to - 4 C at night, so the crop doesn't have very much time to dry so we can continue to harvest."

Some Saskatchewan grain producers are also waiting for snow to melt.

Farmers in the northwestern region of the province, for example, have only completed 17 per cent of their harvest, a Saskatchewan Crop Report says.

The longer the snow sits on the ground, the more issues farmers can face.

"Quality is always a factor but that can depend on what the crop is and what stage it was in when the first frost came," Cherilyn Nagel, a director with the Western Canadian Wheat Growers and producer from Mossbank, Sask., told Farms.com.

"Harvestability can become a big problem. You need dry straw to thresh through the combine accurately to get as many kernels as you can. If (the crop) stays wet, you're left with wet grain that you have to dry down."

Producers who try to harvest wet grain now may also find themselves with challenges in the spring, she said.

"As you try to thresh wet straw, it comes out the back of the combine in a mess," she said. "That makes it harder to seed through in the spring."