By Tom Collins
Farmers are expecting a 20 per cent yield loss on acres that were underwater during a June 23 flood.
Some areas of Western Ontario received anywhere from 100-170 mm within a few hours. Flood warnings were issued for Kitchener, Cambridge, Brantford, Grand Valley, Elora, Harriston, St. Jacobs, New Hamburg, West Montrose, Elmira, Ayr and North Dumfries. The Gorrie Dam failed, sending more water onto fields and into towns, and a state of emergency was declared at Harriston in Wellington County.
The Maitland Valley Conservation Authority said the North Maitland River watershed received 110-170 mm of rain over six to eight hours and called it a one-in-100-year flood event.
Listowel farmer Don Storey said three inches of rain fell on his farm, but said he was one of the lucky ones. He heard of farms a mile north and south of him that got anywhere from 4-5 inches. He said the ground was already saturated as his farm had received about 3.5 inches of rain over the previous week.
He called the storm intense, and said one neighbour had a field that still had water on it two days after the rainfall.
“To see water 48 hours after a significant amount of rain is unusual for sure,” he said. “We are quite fortunate we have well-drained land.”
Farmers quickly took to Twitter to post photos, videos and thoughts of the flood. Many referred to the flood as #Monsoon2017.
Chrissie Schneider, a beef and cash crop farmer outside of Palmerston, tweeted “Checking out our knee-high corn and waist-high water! Jonny thinks we need some ducks! #Monsoon2017.”
There were fields of wheat where the heads were submerged underwater. Corn and soybean fields were also underwater. A couple of farms had rows of wrapped hay torn in half and carried a short distance away by the water. Storey heard of a few barns where beef cattle had to get trucked out.
“They were belly deep in water inside the barn,” he said.
While the flooding receded fairly quickly on most farms, more rain deluged the area in the week after the flood.
“The impacts are going to be pretty extreme in this part of the world for a lot of crops,” said Storey. “Beans, corn especially. The stuff that’s just coming through the ground. It’s not going to come back from it. There’s a lot of seeds that we found in our field that just didn’t germinate. It could be a 20-40 per cent impact.”
Dairy farmer Tom Schuurmans of Milky Wave Inc. at Elmira had water go through his calf barn but never lost any acres due to the flood. He said it was the worst flooding he’d ever seen.
OMAFRA soybean specialist Horst Bohner said thousands of acres of soybeans were affected, but yield loss will depend on the specific field and how long soybeans were under water.
“If half of it was underwater for 24 hours, that’s going to result in yield loss,” he said. “Most of these plants will survive but you’ll have some consolidation. You will have a yield loss in those areas.”
Dairy farmer Simon Falkena at Mapleton Township in Wellington County said the biggest problem wasn’t necessarily the June 23 rainfall, but the three inches his farm received in the previous week.
“The ground was just so saturated that it couldn’t take anything,” he said. “If you have a dry week, the tiles have taken so much water away ahead of time, you have a buffer. And that buffer just wasn’t there at all.”
He said most of the water on his farm was gone within 24 hours. And while he’s expecting a yield loss of maybe 20 per cent, it’s “hard to estimate, because you don’t know what the rest of the summer will be.”