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Weather has some crops down, but not out

The wet, cool weather that defined the spring and early summer have taken somewhat of a toll on crops, even here in the region.

The fields have been soaked, the air has been damp and cool and the sunshine has been too fleeting and tepid, at least for those trying to get the most out of their summer. But what that means for the area’s crops come harvest time is still anyone’s guess.

The wet spring weather delayed the planting of crops like soybeans and corn by a few weeks, but there is still plenty of time to make up for that.

“Now that’s not the end of the world as long as conditions are favorable from here on in,” said Horst Bohner, soybean specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA), about the delay in planting.

“It’s impossible to predict soybean yield at this stage of development. So certainly there’s been challenges with spring herbicide because the fields were so wet, so it’s hard to get in at the right time.”

The corn crop in the region, by contrast, has been doing fairly well, according to Ben Rosser, an OMAFRA corn specialist, especially compared to the areas to the north and east of the province.

“I think in the Waterloo area things are reasonably good,” said Rosser. “There’s other parts of the province that are continuing to get wet weather, but I think in southern Ontario we haven’t got as much of that. Despite some later planting than guys would normally do in the springtime, I think things have shaped fairly good.”

The excessive rainfall in the area has in fact been record-breaking. According to the University of Waterloo weather station’s June report, “looking at the first half of the year (2017), the total precipitation of 617.8 mm is the second wettest first six months of the year, only coming behind 1947 when there was 624.8 mm.”

After a wet spring delayed planting, some crops have managed to play catch-up, though experts would like to see more sun and hotter temperatures to move things along prior to harvest. [Faisal Ali / The Observer]

That rainfall has caused considerable problems for the local soybeans, says Bohner. Besides waterlogged fields, the wet is also putting the crops at risk of diseases that thrive in the damp like aphids and white mold.

“We are concerned about white mold – that’s a disease that favours when it’s cooler and wetter, and so far that’s what we’ve been having at this point anyway.”

Going forward, what soybean farmers ought to be hoping over the next few months is a balmy 28 to 30 degrees Celsius during the days and 20 to 24 C at night, with perhaps a mild shower once a week. Further rainfall like we’ve been having would be a problem – at least for the soy. The corn, by comparison, is not so effected, says Rosser.

“At this point I don’t think that’s a major issue. It would take a really excessive, excessive amount of rainfall at this point to cause big issues, and certainly the corn crops are using a lot of water at this stage, so frequent rain at this stage is certainly a welcome thing,” he said, adding that some more heat would be nice though.

Besides the field crops, the region’s produce has also been doing fairly well, says Trevor Herrle-Braun of Herrle’s Country Farm Market in St. Agatha. The operation grows about 250 acres worth of produce like strawberries, peas, beans and fruit corn and sources other varieties from local farms.

“I think we’re pretty fortunate compared to a lot of other areas in the province in that we’ve missed these really, really big, heavy rains that have dumped inches and inches. Like up in the Bradford marsh, like down London way, Woodstock. South of the 401 there they’ve really gotten hit very, very hard, and we’ve missed a lot of that,” he said.

As for the weather we would like to see going forward? “We’d like an inch of rain a week, if we can have that – at night,” says Herrle-Braun.

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