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Crops

A wide variety of crops are grown throughout Alberta, influenced largely by market conditions and regional growing conditions such as heat, moisture and number of frost-free days. The four major crop categories are cereals, oilseeds, specialty crops and forages. Cereal crops include spring- and fall-seeded wheat, malt and feed barley, oats, rye, durnum, and triticale (a hybrid of wheat and rye). The principal oilseed crops in Alberta are canola and flax. Specialty crops include field peas, mustard, lentils, dry bean, favabean, safflower, sunflower, canaryseed, herbs and spices, sugar beets, potatoes, corn and other vegetables grown for commercial production. Forage crops include alfalfa, brome grass, timothy, wheatgrasses, clover and wildryes. The most important crop types in Alberta, based on production values and sales, are wheat, barley, canola and tame hay.

Moisture is the limiting factor to crop growth in the warmer, drier brown and dark brown soil zones of southern Alberta. Irrigation is one of the primary methods of improving agricultural productivity and diversifying the range of crops grown in this region. Irrigated crops account for about 12 percent of Alberta's agricultural production, even though irrigated land constitutes only 4.5 percent of the total cultivated area. Irrigation greatly increases yields over what would be expected without additional moisture. Irrigation also enables the growing of crops such as sugar beets and soft spring wheat, which could not survive on the amount of moisture available on dry farmlands in Alberta.