Nova Scotia

N.S. farmers delay planting as they grapple with rainy, cold spring

It's been particularly wet in the prime agriculture areas of Nova Scotia, with some regions seeing twice the monthly average of rainfall in April.

'The orchards are as soft as they've been in probably 50 years, I would guess'

Soggy fields means tractors are getting stuck in the waterlogged soils. (Submitted by Larry Lutz)

Glen Hebb and his wife Marilyn grow everything from apples to zucchinis at Indian Garden Farms in Hebbville, N.S.

But like many farmers in the province, this spring's cold and rainy weather has delayed their usual planting schedule. Hebb said his strawberry crop is currently about 10 days behind schedule. He hopes the strawberries are ready for July 1.

"Canada Day hits and everybody is here for strawberries," Hebb said.

Typically, the strawberries would be ready to pick in late June.

Glen Hebb and his son, Matthew, in a strawberry field at Indian Garden Farms in Hebbville. (Submitted by Glen Hebb)

Once the sun finally shines and the soil dries out, Hebb will be playing catch-up.

"We are going to have a tremendous amount of work hitting us all at once, because we're not able to do things consistently through these weeks of wetness," he said.

Despite the delay, Hebb has a positive attitude and hopes to see warmer weather soon.

"Farmers are eternal optimists," Hebb said. "We haven't lost anything. It's just moving too slowly right now."

Wetter than normal spring 

CBC meteorologist Ryan Snoddon said it was a wetter than normal April and May right across the Maritimes.

It's been particularly wet in the prime agriculture areas of Nova Scotia from the Annapolis Valley through Hants, Colchester, Cumberland, Pictou and Antigonish counties.

These regions recorded between 160 and 200 mm of rain in April, which is more than double the 30-year monthly average.

With another 10 days left in May, this region has already picked up 70-80 mm of rain for the month, which is nearing the monthly average.

Wetter than normal spring in Nova Scotia. (Ryan Snoddon/CBC)

Soil temperature cold too 

Wet weather isn't the only thing stopping farmers from getting out to plant crops. 

The soil temperature is the coldest it has been since the year 2000, according to Jeff Franklin, a plant physiology technician with the federal government who is based in Kentville, N.S.

"Our soil temperatures now are about a half-degree to a degree lower than any temperature that we've seen in this millennia," Franklin said.

Current soil temperatures are around nine degrees.

Franklin said the colder soil temperatures are delaying planting, but things can turn around quickly  for farmers with some warmth.

"I don't see this as being a permanent problem," he said.

Another tractor stuck in the apple orchard. (Submitted by Larry Lutz )

Wet and soggy fields 

Larry Lutz is the co-owner of Lutz Family Farms in Rockland, south of Berwick, N.S.

They grow almost 120 acres of apples and peaches.

The wet soil means Lutz is having trouble manoeuvring through the orchard with farming equipment.

"The orchards are as soft as they've been in probably 50 years, I would guess," Lutz said. "And I can say that because I've been on this piece of ground for close to that."

The fifth-generation farmer said tractors are getting stuck and leaving big ruts between rows.

"It will take us a couple of years to get the ruts filled back in," Lutz said.  

Warmer temperatures soon 

CBC meteorologist Ryan Snoddon says as we move through next week, we should finally see a pattern change across Atlantic Canada, with some sustained warmer temperatures. 

Farmers in the Maritimes are not alone. In Ontario, farmers are also weeks behind schedule thanks to a wetter than normal spring.

With files from Ryan Snoddon

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