Advertisement 1

Lack of March precipitation leaves farmers nervous

Article content

This is the kind of spring that makes farmers nervous.

Advertisement 2

Story continues below

Article content

Unseasonably warm and dry, some are worried that orchard crops may put on an early bud set, leaving emerging fruit vulnerable to damage from a sudden, hard frost.

Farmers also need moisture in the ground to germinate seed crops. So far, they’re not getting much. And what moisture there is moves a little deeper beneath the surface with each sunny forecast.

“Your indicators are right,” says Larry Davis of Burford, Norfolk, Haldimand and Brant counties’ representative to the Ontario Federation of Agriculture.

“This is the driest March that I can remember. Farmers are already talking about it.”

Dr. Harold Schroeter of Simcoe, a hydrological consultant who keeps careful weather records, says this will be the driest March in 90 years in Norfolk if the county didn’t receive significant rain between now and next Wednesday night.

Schroeter began to wonder if something unusual was happening about mid-month.

“When I was looking at the data on the 16th, I saw we had four millimetres of rain in total in Simcoe for the whole month,” Schroeter said. “By mid-March, we should have 40, 50 millimetres or so anyway.”

Davis isn’t worried about farmers who rely on irrigation. He said the water table in this part of Ontario is high and ground supplies should be adequate.

However, irrigating for germination is not practical for large acreages of corn, soybeans and other grain crops. Davis said farmers can compensate by planting seed deeper but this can delay the growing process.

Advertisement 3

Story continues below

Article content

Davis added that no-till practices pay dividends during a dry spring. Undisturbed farm land, he said, retains moisture while serving as a buffer against wind erosion.

Schroeter has been keeping daily weather records for nearly 30 years. He says his driest March to date in Simcoe featured 20 millimetres of precipitation.

Schroeter has no idea why Norfolk has been so dry. As he’s watched weather radar in recent weeks, Schroeter has noticed rain passing through Ontario consistently skirting the Norfolk Sand Plain.

“I have no idea why that’s happening,” he said.

Schroeter says the local area will rebound quickly if weather patterns return to normal. If April proves to be as dry as March, Schroeter says there will be consequences, grass fires and ditch fires among them, especially if conditions turn windy.

For his part, Davis has also noticed that March has been far less blustery than usual. The month started windy but Davis has noticed a consistent calm since then not normally associated with this time of year.

Latest National Stories

Advertisement 1

Story continues below

News Near Tillsonburg

This Week in Flyers