P.E.I. crops, farmers struggling with dry fields

Farmers on P.E.I. are struggling in what they say is a very dry growing season.

'A stressed crop is not a happy one'

'This season has been by far one of the driest seasons we've seen, ever,' says Gordon McKenna at Country View Farms in central P.E.I. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

Farmers on P.E.I. are struggling in what they say is a very dry growing season.

The Island has had a lot of hot, dry days and not much rain — in some cases, just 20 per cent of what's normal. CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland says spring and summer have been very dry, especially in western P.E.I. 

"It's been dry," said Matthew Compton of Compton's Vegetable Stand in Summerside. "I've been farming all my life and I don't remember it ever being this dry for this long." 

Compton's sweet corn crop will be ready soon — it likes the heat, but he said the cobs are not quite as long as they should be and the tips are white. Over in his strawberry fields where the crop started off promising, the final berries being harvested are small and have a shorter shelf life. He knows already his grain and wheat crops will be light and he may have to buy straw from other farmers to cover his strawberries. 

If it stays dry through August and September, we'll have smaller-than-average potatoes.— Ryan Barrett

"If we don't get moisture in the next week to 10 days, it's really going to start to show," Compton said. 

"If we look at the weather trends every year, are our periods without rain are getting longer," he said, noting he is considering investing in irrigation equipment. 

'July was a tough one'

The potato crop is struggling too in some parts of the Island, as rainfall throughout the summer has been spotty across P.E.I. 

The corn being grown for Compton's Vegetable Stand in Summerside likes heat, but farmer Matthew Compton says the crop does need rain to fill out cobs. (Stephanie vanKampen/CBC)

At Countryview Farm in Newton, where  co-owner Gordon McKenna measures rainfall, he said there's been just a fraction of what's needed. 

"We just checked the numbers there recently — we were about 80 per cent behind rainfall amounts in June. July was a tough one," he said. "We're just praying that August is a little more gentler on us.

"The crops are, surprisingly, hanging on," he said, but added "a stressed crop is not a happy one." 

The next few weeks will be crucial for potato farmers. That's when the potatoes need the moisture to get to a decent size. 

Issues with quality already starting

"If it stays dry through August and September, we'll have smaller-than-average potatoes," said Ryan Barrett, research and agronomy co-ordinator with the P.E.I. Potato Board.  

P.E.I. had received much less rain than normal, says CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland. (Jay Scotland/CBC)

"We'll also likely have issues with quality — so things like scab on potatoes or some other sort of physiological defects with the potatoes are more likely when it's been dry."

McKenna said he is seeing evidence of some of those quality issues already.  

Barrett said growers are really hoping to see some rain over the next couple of weeks. 

The forecast for the next seven days shows more hot, dry weather, said Scotland. 

More from CBC P.E.I.

With files from Stephanie vanKampen


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