From FCC Express, by Owen Roberts
Those who wondered if the weather could get any worse for southwestern Ontario farmers got their answer (LAST) Sunday night, when a tornado touched down about 60 kilometres northwest of Guelph, Ont.
Environment Canada called it a Level 2 tornado, with winds of 180 to 220 kilometres an hour. It ripped a 220-metre wide destruction path for nine kilometres, through farmland and through the community of Teviotdale.
With it came hail, along with more buckets of rain – up to 2.5 inches in some spots – which continued intermittently into Monday throughout the south and southwest.
But while the extreme wind was a curse to some farmers, overall the rain was a blessing.
Dale Cowan, senior agronomist with the AGRIS and Wanstead Co-op, says although rain made fields soggy and difficult to access during planting, now it’s desperately needed.
That’s because corn and soybeans develop yield during the hot days of August. They need a significant amount of water during this reproductive stage to realize their full potential. Corn, for example, can take up a quarter-inch of water a day at this time.
“There’s a big difference between getting two inches of rain in a day now, compared to getting that much during planting,” Cowan says.
The wet spring and start of summer has led to significant crop disease. Most corn fields have been hit with eye spot, northern corn leaf blight and gray leaf spot. Cowan says record acres of corn have been sprayed with fungicide to try to stave off disease.
And then there’s insect pressure, particularly from spider mites moving into the soybean fields from adjacent harvested wheat fields, and aphid populations on the rise.
Those challenges will be easier to handle if August is graced with warm days and nights. Temperatures that hovered above 30C at the end of July helped get yield development off to a good start and raise heat units to close to the 30-year average.
When the mercury dips to below 14.4C at night, however, yield development is stymied. And lately, nights and early mornings in south and southwestern Ontario have been unusually cool.
For some farmers, though, no amount of heat will help. Essex County, which includes some of this country’s most productive farmland, has at least 10,000 acres that went unplanted because of the unusually wet spring.