It's only August 12th but the latest Alberta crop report says harvest has already started in the province.

According to Mark Cutts, Crop Specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, four percent of the crop in Alberta has already been taken off, most of it in the south of the province.  While Cutts says that's not a lot, it is ahead of previous years.

"The crop report that came out today (August 11) indicates while it's only four percent but it does indicate that harvest has started in the province and I suspect now, with the weather continuing like it currently is, that we'll see the amount of combined acres start to move up a little more quickly now.  Some of the crops that take a little bit longer to mature they'll probably be ready to harvest a little bit sooner than normal.  As we move along through the month of August I think we'll start to see that we'll be further ahead than where we are typically at this time of year."

Cutts says the combination of hot weather and a lack of moisture in much of the province means that yield forecasts are down over previous years, and way down for the Airdrie area over last year's above average crop.

"If there's not enough moisture that certainly has an impact and the fact that we've had warm conditions that certainly adds another level of stress to the plant and can certainly have an impact on yield.  For the Airdrie area the forecast yields are down just a little more than ten percent compared to the average yield index and compared to last year, which were above average crops, the yields would be down significantly compared to last year and potentially down maybe ten to 15 percent compared to sort of a long term average."

Cutts says, at this point of the season, if farmers are ready to harvest they're hoping for the warm, dry weather to continue so they can get the crop off.

"Their goal is simply to keep combining.  At this point in time, moisture for spring seeded crops is going to provide very little benefit if they're at or near maturity.  For producers starting to combine, a stretch of weather that allows them to continue to combine is what they'd be looking for.  If combining is done and completed earlier than normal and producers are looking to put in a winter wheat crop then that's where some moisture would certainly be beneficial.  Producers considering winter cereals will certainly have to pay attention to soil moisture conditions as we move into September or mid to late September in southern Alberta."

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