Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Dry days concern some Prince Edward Island farmers

'These hot, dry winds are a killer to potatoes'

By Laura Meader, CBC News Posted: Aug 10, 2016 9:00 PM AT Last Updated: Aug 10, 2016 9:00 PM AT
It's ideal holiday weather but for many P.E.I farmers, continuous hot days can cause problems.

"We need rain," said Greg Donald, general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board.

The potato crop is at a critical stage of development, Donald said, and if dry conditions continue it will affect the size of potatoes and how spuds plants can produce.
Hot, dry summer causing 'weather whiplash'
  • Dry weather threatens some P.E.I. vegetable crops

  • "[Farmers] are very worried, very concerned, and all areas need rain right now," he said.

    Ray Keenan, who is 65 and has farmed most of his life, describes it as one of the driest years he's seen.

    "Potatoes don't like a lot of heat," said Keenan, who owns Rollo Bay Holdings in Souris.

    It's not just the lack of moisture, he said, but also the wind that's bad for crops.

    "These hot, dry winds are a killer to potatoes. They wilt in the high heat and they don't recover well from that unless we have cool damp weather right behind it."

    Weather experts say summertime precipitation can vary with some regions missing out due to rainfall hitting smaller, specific areas.

    "A lot of it comes in the form of very localized showers and thunderstorms, so that can produce quite variable amounts," said CBC meterologist, Kalin Mitchell.

    Mitchell said though it has been hot and dry, it's not a record-breaking year.  Weather records show Charlottetown received 137 millimetres of rain in total for June and July. The 30-year average is 179 millimetres.

    45th driest summer in 142 years

    Mitchell said this year ranks about 45th among 142 years of data.
    "Believe it or not, for 2016 we don't even crack the top 10 or top 20 as far as driest Junes and Julys go."

    At the Charlottetown Farmers Market, some growers say they're seeing the affect of the weather on their vegetables.  Verena Varga of Heart Beet Organics said without the rain, some vegetables don't size up.

    "Our carrots are super tiny, super skinny," she said.

    Varga has been using a sprinkler a couple of times a week but said she's heard horror stories from other small-scale farmers who are spending up to 12 hours a day watering crops.

    P.E.I.'s forestry division bumped up two regions to a high fire index Wednesday. Officials wait for a category of "very high" before they put a ban on burning.

    Showers forecast for Friday

    "Conditions right now are moderate in the west and high in the central and northeast regions," said acting field services manager Scott MacDonald.  "If the forecast looked bad we would start to get worried."
    There is a possibility of rain in the next few days. Most of the Island should see rain and showers Friday night and into Saturday morning, Mitchell said, adding it's too early to pinpoint amounts but the weather system could bring anywhere from  five to 15 millimetres depending on the region.


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