Potato growers 'very concerned' by P.E.I. drought

It’s been great weather for going to the beach, and not bad yet for potato farmers, but they are going to need the weather to turn wetter soon.

‘They’re eternal optimists’

Dry weather is good for planting, because mud can keep equipment off the fields. (Kerry Campbell/CBC)

It's been great weather for going to the beach, and not bad yet for potato farmers, but they are going to need the weather to turn soon.

"It is hot and dry," said Greg Donald, general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board.

"The growers are very concerned right now but we're hopeful if we get rain real soon here we'll be OK."

The Island has seen two heat waves in the last week, and the dry spell goes back to the beginning of April.

Since April 1, rainfall in Charlottetown is less than half of normal. In Summerside it's only about a third. The situation is slightly better in the east, with rainfall at St. Peters about 60 per cent of normal. The latest Canadian Drought Monitor map, dated May 31, showed moderate drought for most of P.E.I. and there's been no significant rainfall since then.

A dry spring is not necessarily a bad thing, said Donald. It's good for planting if the fields aren't muddy, because it's easy to get farm equipment on to them.

And some farmers feel dry weather early on can make for hardier plants, he said, because the roots will grow down deep looking for water.

"Right now, we're OK, it's deep roots, they're eternal optimists," said Donald.

"If we get a rain here, a good rain, like 25 millimetres or something would be ideal, over a day or two to let it soak in, we'd be in really good shape."

With good rain the potato crop will still be OK, says Greg Donald, general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board. (Laura Meader/CBC)

Farmers will be looking for that rain in the next week. Any later could mean the rain will come when the tubers, the potatoes themselves, start to set. A dry plant will set fewer, and there is no going back from that.

In addition, the middle of July to the middle of August is typically the driest time of the growing season. If the rain doesn't come soon, there is an increasing chance it will not come at all.

"A cooler weather pattern sets up over the weekend with some much needed rain in the form of showers," CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland said.

More from CBC P.E.I.


Kevin Yarr is the early morning web journalist at CBC P.E.I. Kevin has a specialty in data journalism, and how statistics relate to the changing lives of Islanders. He has a BSc and a BA from Dalhousie University, and studied journalism at Holland College in Charlottetown. You can reach him at

With files from Jay Scotland


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