PEI

Island farmers hoping for more consistent temperatures

With a cold snap across P.E.I. following recent mild temperatures, some Island farmers are concerned about how changing temperatures will affect their crops.

'If this pattern continues, it's hard on the crops that have to overwinter,' says Frank McCardle

Strawberry grower Matthew Compton says the crop is very sensitive to freeze-thaw cycles. (Submitted by Matthew Compton)

With a cold snap across P.E.I. following recent mild temperatures, some Island farmers are concerned about how changing temperatures will affect their crops.

"If this pattern continues, it's hard on the crops that have to overwinter freezing and thawing, and we can't seem to break out of it," said Frank McCardle, who grows cash crops at his farm in Middleton, P.E.I.

McCardle said he's particularly concerned about his winter wheat, which already shows some signs of frost damage. He said it's one of the worst years for freezing and thawing that he's seen in a while. 

"We always see some of it on P.E.I., but not on a consistent basis. This has basically been our winter so far, a stretch of real cold weather and then real warm weather," he said.

Risk of winter kill 

Matthew Compton, who grows berries at his farm in Summerside, is also concerned about the fluctuating temperatures and potential damage to his strawberries.

"It's the worst thing you could have for a crop that over winters … especially strawberries. They're really sensitive to

It's just more or less a waiting game until they start to regrow again.- Matthew Compton

thawing and freezing," said Compton. 

He said he had lower a lower yield of strawberries than usual last year, and he saw signs of damage from a similar freez-thaw cycle. He said he's anticipating seeing some damage again this year.

"When we have a few hot days, [strawberries] can potentially come out of dormancy, or hibernation, and they can start to regrow, start the regrowth. And then you get a real cold spell and they'll just die off. [That's] what we call winter kill."

'A waiting game'

Compton and McCardle are both concerned about their crops, but neither will know if the crops have been damaged and the extent of it until the spring. 

"It's just more or less a waiting game until they start to regrow again in the springtime," said Compton. 

McCardle said he's seen years where he expects his crops to be a writeoff, but they've ended up rebounding.

Compton covers his strawberry plants with straw each fall to protect them from the elements. (Submitted by Matthew Compton)

Both farmers took steps prior to the winter to reduce the risk of winterkill. McCardle said he planted his crops as early as possible so they'd have a strong root system and be more likely to withstand frost and fluctuating temperatures.

Compton covered his strawberry plants with straw to help protect them from the elements. Despite his concerns, he's optimistic the straw could do the trick.