Lack of rain creates parched crops

Steve Sharratt
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It may be great for sun-seekers but the lack of rain across Prince Edward Island has crops drying out, farmers worried and a forest fire index nearing extreme.

Sarrah Wood, left, and Jennah Wood show barren strawberry plants at Wood’s Farms in Tea Hill, Prince Edward Island. This year’s picking season was their shortest ever, two weeks, with poor fruiting and berry size.

 “The berry season will be short and sweet,’’ said veteran grower Arnie Nabuurs as he finished up a lunch at his farm market operation Wednesday (July 11).

“I suspect we’ll be finishing the bulk of strawberries by late next week and that’s about three weeks earlier than last year.”

The lack of moisture this summer is starting to take its toll on the 400,000 acres of cropland growing everything from potatoes to strawberries. Depending on what part of the province you live in, rain is about half of what it was last year.

In potato fields near Orwell, William Visser was rogueing his crop and making some unwanted discoveries.

“We’ve got some issues due to the lack of rain,’’ he said. “It’s not affecting the majority of the crop yet, but the early potato plants we put in are having a tough time of it.”

Early seed potatoes planted in the sandy soil in mid-April are now parched plants, sagging on the hills in some of his fields. The dry land syndrome was even apparent 10 weeks ago when southeastern farmers found themselves creating dust clouds while they planted.

This week, the forest fire index hit “very high” for both the central and eastern portions of the province where the lack of rain is the highest. The western region needs rain as well, but the fire index sits at “high”.

“Every year is different,’’ says farm market grower Diane Balderston. “And this year we really need some moisture.”

The highway market in Stratford raises 20 types of vegetables and Balderston says it’s too early yet to determine the impact any lack of rain will have on her crops.

“It’s the early season for us right now, but the lack of moisture doesn’t encourage much growth,” she said. “Without rain, we won’t get the yields we love to see.”

Federation of Agriculture president Bertha Campbell says the need for sun and water is always a balancing act since too much of one can lead to drought or field blight.

“I don’t believe it’s critical yet, but it’s always worrisome when there is no rain in the forecast,’’ she said from her central Queens farm.

“We’ll be approaching the critical stage when the tuber starts to form and really needs the water.”

The Guardian

Geographic location: Stratford, Queens

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