Michael Watson, owner of Front Step Farm in Maple, Ont., walked through his 24 acres of farmland Tuesday, counting the crops that won’t survive the extreme heat that has blasted much of the province in the past few days.
“These peas have actually started to show the heat stress here. The temperatures peas typically like (are) a lower temperature, below 30 degrees,” said Watson, pointing to a pea plant with wilted leaves and brown pods.
The lifelong farmer adds that his entire stock of beets, onions, squash, potatoes and fruits will either die or won’t reach their potential in size if this heat continues for the next few days.
“It’s bad. What I’m seeing is that the next four or five days are crucial,” said Watson, adding that many farmers across the Greater Toronto Area are struggling with dying crops.
“Those who can irrigate are out there doing it now and those who can’t are watching yields significantly over every day it happens.”
Agriculture Canada agroclimate specialist Traevor Hadwen said the heat has resulted in a mild drought, which is concerning.
However, it hasn’t reached a critical point yet, he said.
“We’re not expecting significant yield losses from this short-term heat wave that we’ve been seeing — and certainly the moisture stress the plants are seeing right now is recoverable.”
Hadwen adds that while GTA farmers are undergoing some tough times, farmers out east are dealing with a much more difficult situation.
“The area of biggest concern is east of Toronto right now,” said Hadwen.
“Southern regions are dry but they’ve received some moisture in the last couple of weeks that the eastern region didn’t receive. That eastern region has been fairly dry for the last three months; they’ve received rain here and there but not near as much as they would normally get,” he added.
“If conditions continue, crops are not going to be that productive and we’re going to start losing some of the yield that we would get off those crops later in the season. So we certainly do need moisture in the next couple of weeks.”
For Michael Watson, he said many farmers have resorted to prayer.
“You pray for rain,” he said. “Definitely, a prayer a day, probably more like five or six times.”