Abnormally dry conditions affecting farmers’ crops in southwestern Ontario

Crispin Colvin has spent the last few weeks watching some of his crops die of thirst.

A recent rainfall shortage in southwestern Ontario means Colvin’s farm will produce less corn than usual this harvest season, which means much less revenue – and much more worrying – for farmers like him, who depend on crops as their main source of income. .

“It’s stressful to say the least,” says Colvin, who grows soybeans, corn and hay for cattle in Thorndale, Ont.

“But there’s not much you can do when it’s dry like this.”

Many farmers in southwestern Ontario are currently dealing with the impact of unusually dry conditions in June and July so far, a situation that is hurting crops and reducing expected yield.

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Colvin, who is also executive director of the Ontario Federation of Agriculture, says less rain and therefore lower yields will create a domino effect in the food chain, creating less product and driving up prices.

“If we put out less product, there’s less to process, there’s less to sell…and that in turn affects the price you’ll pay at the supermarket for the product,” says Colvin. “I want the consumer to have what they want, what they expect, but I can’t get there without rain.”

Agriculture Canada’s Canadian Drought Monitor map, which examines the severity of drought conditions across the country, shows “abnormally dry” conditions across Chatham-Kent in southwestern Ontario to Vaughan, Australia. north of Toronto.

Trevor Hadwen, an agroclimate specialist at the federal ministry, says that while some crops can do well in dry conditions, others like corn and soybeans don’t do well during their flowering period.

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“We need some humidity, we need some wind and milder temperatures to get through this critical phase of the agricultural season for maize growers,” he says.

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James Herrle, who farms near Waterloo, Ont., says early Monday’s rain is likely the most the region has seen in two months, but growers would need three or four times that amount to help some crops recover. this stage.

“I see a lot of crops, especially corn and soybeans, that seem to be really hurting and some of them are past the point of no return,” says Herrle, who grows a variety of fresh vegetables as well as soybeans.

“There is definitely a trickle down effect in terms of what it looks like to the consumer. This should lead to increased costs as there is less supply in the market. »

According to a monthly report from the University of Waterloo Weather Station, half of June’s precipitation fell in the first week of the month, followed by nearly two weeks of no rain.

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The month saw total rainfall of just 48.6mm, well below the long-term average of 82.4mm for this time of year, making it the driest June in the region in 15 years, the report says.

Frank Seglenieks, the station coordinator, said the first 15 days of July saw only about 4mm of precipitation, continuing the pattern of dry conditions seen the previous month.

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“Virtually all of southern Ontario has had to deal with this drought,” Seglenieks says, adding that such conditions are only seen in the region every 20 years, on average.

Forecasts show the possibility of wetter conditions towards the end of July and early August, Seglenieks says, but questions remain about how much rain it will bring and whether it will be widespread enough to counter the water deficit seen these days. last months.

Higher levels of precipitation in spring and winter, and drier conditions in summer, are consistent with what changing climate patterns show for this part of the country, he says.

“It’s impossible to say that a specific season, a specific month, a specific day is 100% caused by climate change,” he says. “But what we saw is certainly within the narrative of what we would expect to see in a future climate.”

© 2022 The Canadian Press

Julio V. Miller