Ontario farmers’ planting season significantly delayed thanks to soggy spring weather

After what has been a very wet planting seasons, London-area farmers will be looking to make up for lost time this weekend. The Canadian Press/AP/Charlie Riedel, File

The life of a farmer is challenging at the best of time, not to mention risky.

It takes planning, preparation, and some business savvy to make for a successful planting season. But when it comes down to it, they’re at the mercy of mother nature, and mother nature hasn’t been particularly kind this year.

That’s forced significant delays for farmers looking to get their crops in the ground.

Markus Hearle from the Grains Farmers of Ontario is calling it a “once in a century” situation for farmers.

“It’s a different problem than what we usually face, the farmers I’ve been talking to have been saying they’ve never experienced anything like this. It really is a once-in-the-century situation for us,” said Hearle.

“We’re going to have to work through it and hope for the best, but luck will have to be on our side.”

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Hearle said despite being a week into June, a lot of the corn and soybean acres in Ontario have not been planted. Which means many area farmers will be looking to make up for lost time over the next few days, with a stretch of dry weather in the weekend forecast for the first time since February.

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According to Environment Canada, the London area received 110 millimetres of rain in April, and 115 millimetres in May, that’s compared to 54 millimetres of rain in May 2018.

Meteorologist Peter Kimbell says the area saw 35 per cent more than what is normal for this time of year. Although farmers will see a window in the wet weather this weekend, he stresses it won’t last long.

“We do have a bit of warm air and dry conditions over the next few days, but then we’ll be back into cooler temperatures and showers Monday.”

Kimbell says those up and down temperatures will likely continue through the rest of June before the warmer summer temperatures take hold.

That’s the last thing farmers need as Hearle says excessive heat can cause significant issues for crops if they haven’t flowered yet.

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Looking at this weekend, the warmer temperatures are great for those looking to get to a patio, or maybe head over to a local park, but he says as far as the soil conditions are concerned, the damage has already been done.

“It may look nice and dry from a distance, but underneath, the conditions are far from perfect,” said Hearle, who isn’t convinced this stretch of nice weather will be enough to salvage the planting season.

“We are at that point, once we are into June we know to expect lower yields, the growing season isn’t very long. We’re hoping for a late fall to maybe extend the season a little bit,” said Hearle.

“A week of nice weather will go a long way for the farmers, but some of the conditions are still not perfect, and there’s a big chance we won’t see perfect conditions this year because some of the soil is just so saturated it will need too much time to dry out.”

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Hearle says the ideal planting season begins in late April, so you could have everything in the ground in early June. He says farmers are working on a much different timeline this year, and some are considering whether it’s worth it at all.

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“I spoke with a farmer yesterday who said if the weather doesn’t turn around he won’t be planting anything because he can’t put that kind of investment into the ground and just hope for the best,” said Hearle, who adds that farmers have a lot at stake.

“There is a lot of money that’s invested that goes into planting a crop, and if you don’t have a guaranteed return then you are basically losing money right away, even before you see any dollars coming back from the grain you have to sell in the fall.”

With farmers looking to make up for lost time this weekend, motorists are being asked to keep an eye out for farm equipment and slow-moving vehicles.