Ontario Federation of Agriculture Commentary
By Jackie Kelly-Pemberton, OFA Director
On any given day, farmers are talking about the weather. It dictates what we do across all seasons and dominates our thoughts and conversations as we try to work with or around whatever nature dishes out. And this season has provided plenty of fodder for commenting, comparing and complaining about the drought-like conditions across most of the province, followed by a few heavy rains over the past week.
The incidence of extreme weather events seems to be accelerating. Variable planting and harvesting conditions each year make for highly unpredictable farming schedules and yields. Extreme fluctuations in temperatures throughout the summer and winter months challenge our livestock and our own stewardship capabilities. But this all seems to be the new normal so, farmers need to find ways to adapt with and thrive in this changing environment.
The recent drought stress in some areas of the province, followed by torrential rains serves as an obvious reminder of the need for adaptable farm management strategies, especially water management. As farmers, we are all dependent on and are at the mercy of Mother Nature for our livelihood. As a result, farmers are increasingly adopting new on-farm strategies to mitigate the impact of unpredictable weather.
Some practices have been implemented after years of industry research, and science has provided some relief through engineered drought resistance or other usable traits for field crops. New drought-tolerant traits for field crop varieties and hybrids are now available and in some areas of the province, farmers are making these a priority to plant in their fields.
Minimum tillage or conservation tillage are also effective practices many farmers have adopted to preserve organic matter, nutrients and moisture in our soils. New and progressive farm equipment is also helping farmers manage water conservation and soil health. Irrigation practices have also changed over the years to better manage and conserve water. Crop rotation and rotational grazing are also key stewardship strategies that are helping farmers manage the availability of moisture to their crops and livestock.
Sometimes weather risks are out of our control, and that’s when risk management strategies like crop insurance are important to offer relief for those that are unavoidable.
Managing the impacts of weather is all part of risk management, something all farmers carefully evaluate and plan for to the best of their abilities. Adaptation to the new weather extremes is a high farm priority today, more than ever before.
We understand the stress the weather is causing our members this growing season and the Ontario Federation of Agriculture (OFA) sends our support to our members in their efforts to manage their crops and livestock during this challenging growing season.