Soggy weather woes for South Delta farmers
Mother Nature must have it in for South Delta’s farmers.
At least that’s what some farmers like Peter Guichon are thinking after experiencing one of the worst weather conditions during last fall’s harvest time and now dealing with a wet spring that has delayed planting crops.
Guichon, who runs Felix Farms, one of B.C.’s largest producers of vegetables with 900 acres, has been able to plant a small fraction of the crops that are normally in the ground by this time of year.
“We keep getting ready to turn (plough) the fields and have to hold off because the weather forecast says there’s going to be more rain,” Guichon said this week as he surveyed some of the fields that still have water sitting on the surface in some areas.
A dousing of heavy rain after working the soil would undo the ploughing work.
“It’s like your garden at home,” Guichon says. “You have to break up the soil—crumble it up—before you can plant.”
Rainfall re-compacts the freshly tilled soil that if was planted would not produce good quality potatoes.
“You end up getting square potatoes and your yield goes down,” Guichon said.
Making matters even worse are the lasting effects some farmers are feeling from the challenge they had trying to harvest crops last fall.
With the fields unseasonably wet at that time the harvesting machinery compacted soil on portions of the fields to such a degree that water is now pooling in some areas.
But in other places there are indications the soil has dried out to the point where the crust of the mud has cracked.
“It shows you there has been enough dry weather to do that, but then it rains again,” Guichon says. “The good thing is that now when it does rain the water seeps back into those cracks.”
While problems exist for Guichon, some other areas in East Ladner have been dry enough to till the soil.
Robert Butler, spokesman for the Delta Farmer’s Institute, says those places have a sandier soil composition and drain better.
And other farmers who are anxious to prepare their wet lands have resorted to other measures.
“I saw one property where the farmer had tilled a section but went around one part that had a large puddle,” he says.
Butler added local farmers are comparing this season to one back in 1986 that also had a wet spring.
“I remember that one because it was Expo (86) year and it rained pretty hard right through the spring and just about stopped in June,” he says. “But then I don’t think it rained the rest of the summer. Now, that would be nice.”
According to Environment Canada records, this May has the potential to be colder and wetter than the same period last year.
In 2010 the mean (average) temperature was 12 degrees. Stats recorded up until May 9 this year show the mean temperature at 10.2 degrees.
When it comes to precipitation, May could turn out to be pretty soggy as by May 9 a total of 41.2 millimetres of rain had fallen.
The total rainfall in the entire month of May 2010 was 54.2 millimetres.