By Connor Lynch
BECKWITH — The best that Amanda O’Connell can hope for is an average year. Constant rain has soaked her 2,000 acres of corn and soybeans and flooded out some of her fields.
The weather now has to take a dramatic turn to salvage her crop. O’Connell, a dairy and crop farmer at Beckwith, near Carleton Place, said that as long as August and September are drier and hotter than it’s been, the crop will turn out alright. Her stellar fields, though few and far between, will help bump up yields and she said that much of her soaking crop can be salvaged under the right conditions. The early plantings suffered the most, and she had to replant some of her fields. “I know there’s some people who seeded the same acreage three times,” O’Connell told Farmers Forum.
The third week of July was a bit of a reprieve for her farm. The clouds cleared and O’Connell sprayed soybeans, fertilized corn and baled hay. “Then the floodgates opened.”
Eastern Ontario got rocked by rainfall on July 24. Environment Canada issued a weather warning for Ottawa, Cornwall, Morrisburg, Smiths Falls, Sharbot Lake, Stirling and Tweed and the counties of Lanark, Leeds and Grenville, Prescott and Russell. These areas got soaked with another 40 mm to 100 mm of rain.
How bad has it been? In Ottawa, it rained 19 straight days starting in late-June. The longest stretch Ottawa has gone without any rain this year is five days, from July 18 to 22. As of July 24, Ottawa surpassed its normal rainfall for an entire year, and was only 200 mm of rainfall away from breaking an annual rainfall record set in 1972. This is the wettest year since 2011.
Most farmers in Ontario were getting above-average rain and no farmer is alone in his struggle. Rainfall has trounced the 30-year average all over Eastern Ontario, said independent agronomist Gilles Quesnel. Wet conditions slowed applications of herbicide, pesticide, as well as nutrients. In general, heat units are behind as well.
Morrisburg cash crop farmer Arden Schneckenburger said that despite the weather, there’s still potential out there for a decent crop. “It’ll have to be a very nice August,” he said. A frost in September, he said, would be the final nail in this year’s crop.
The major obstacle on his farm isn’t the water or the heat. What he’s lacking is sunlight. “It can’t keep raining all the time, and we’re not that behind on heat units.” But constant cloud cover has limited the sunshine his crops have been getting.
Athens beef farmer Kim Sytsma tweeted July 24: “Rainfall warning has just been announced for our area, great just what we need more rain today.” Athens got about 225 mm of rain on July 24.
August and September will be critical for the crop. Much of the final yields will be determined while the corn and soybeans tassel. Corn will likely be impacted more than soybeans, but “at this point, hopefully we still have a lot of good growing season ahead of us. The potential is still there,” Quesnel said.
Farmers can hope, but a rally in August and September is still up in the air, said Environment Canada climatologist David Phillips. Although temperatures are supposed to be above normal through to the end of summer, when it comes to the weather, typically “what you see is what you’re going to get,” said Phillips. The conditions that give rise to certain weather patterns tend to create more of that weather, he said.