The hard frost that struck southern Ontario in early May caused some damage, but area farmers believe vulnerable crops should be OK provided there are no further complications.
Fred and Sharon Judd of Meadow Lynn Farms have it tougher than most strawberry growers because of the variable topography of their acreage on the south side of Simcoe.
Following several nights of cold weather during the weekend of May 9, the Judds recorded temperatures in low-lying areas in the range of -8 degrees C.
The couple irrigated throughout the cold spell to create an insulating layer of ice on their 7.5-acre patch.
Sharon Judd reported on June 4 that Meadow Lynn lost some of its early berries. The rest of the crop has been set back a week but looks beautiful and should be ready to harvest around the start of summer.
“The berry crop looks wonderful,” she said. “This is the 4th of June. By the fourth of July, we’ll have loads of berries.”
Damage to area crops was mitigated in part by the fact this spring in its entirety has been unseasonably cool. Blossom and bud sets May 9 simply were not far enough along to suffer serious damage from a hard frost.
This compares with the situation about seven years ago when an unseasonably warm April accelerated area orchards, leaving them wide open to serious damage when a killing frost struck without warning. Local orchards were hit hard, apples in particular.
The hard frost in May won’t have the same impact, says Brett Schuyler of Schuyler Farms in Simcoe. The low temperature last month at his operation east of town dipped overnight into the killing range of – 3 degrees C.
Some varieties of apples, Schuyler said, are more vulnerable to cold than others. Some – Ida Reds being an example — promise to be misshapen and otherwise cosmetically impaired. That means they will likely end up in the hopper assigned for juice and sauce apples.
All told however, Schuyler says the apple crop this time around was largely unaffected.
“There was damage to the apples and cherries,” Schuyler said. “But in general, there is potential for a full crop.
“Cherries are a bit flaky anyway. I don’t know if it was the frost. It will be a lighter crop this year. But they are there.”
Port Dover farmer Chris Van Paassen, Windham-area Ward 4’s representative on Norfolk council, has heard that local sweet corn suffered damage during last month’s cold spell. Van Paassen said a cold May creates scheduling headaches for farmers who are juggling different crops.
Farmers diversified into tomatoes, tobacco and sweet potatoes, for example, can find themselves needing to plant several crops at once as June approaches. In a spring like this, Van Paassen says farmers could find themselves “with twice the work and only half the help.”
“The temperature was definitely in the 90-per cent loss range,” Van Paassen said. “But it’s wait-and-see. Most crops are doing well. If it were May 20 today, everything would be perfect. But it’s June 4, and we’re still planting.”