CK crops need continued sunshine to finish

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A number of tomato-harvesting operations were temporarily idled following heavy rain events. At Dresden, processing continued at Conagra thanks to a significant stockpile of harvested fruit at the grading station and in farmers’ fields.

By Jeffrey Carter
Special to The Voice

Not only have crops in Chatham-Kent seen too much rainfall, there has been a lack of sunshine, according to the senior agronomist with AGRIS Co-operative Ltd.

“I have seen seasons this wet before. What is a bit unusual is the intensity of the rainfall events,” Dale Cowan said. “We had almost twice our normal rainfall for the summer months.”

Cowan said the distribution of precipitation has been sporadic, citing the Aug. 23-24 storm as an example. It arrived from the southwest in bands, with some areas receiving more than seven inches and others less than an inch.

Two tornadoes associated with the storm were reported at Windsor, as was a downburst in Chatham, and there was tree damage through the municipality.

The wet weather, which came on the heels of a relatively dry start to the 2023 growing season, also places a limit on root development in corn, soybeans and other crops and there can be other issues. The loss of nitrogen fertilizer has been an issue for corn, and wet soils create ideal conditions for a wide range of diseases which have yield-robbing properties.

The lack of sunshine associated with overcast skies is having yet another impact. Compared to a year ago, crops are about nine days behind in terms of heat unit accumulation and the wet soils have added to that concern.

On Aug. 25, drainage pumps were running at full capacity in the former Township of Dover, near Jeanette’s Creek and other low-lying areas. Wendy Zhang, agronomist with Kejay Farms, said the onions were especially vulnerable.

“All our tractors are out pumping water. If they (the onions) don’t sit in the water too much longer, maybe they’ll be okay.”

Kejay Farms produces onions, carrots and other crops, much of which are sold through national grocers. Kejay Farms and Nature’s Finest Produce, operated by Jason and Kevin Stallaert, are especially known for carrot production and distribution, including a patented system that allows the delivery of fresh carrots to consumers throughout the winter months and into the following spring.

Zhang said carrots are better able to tolerate wet soils compared to onions.

The rain event, which dropped upwards of 180 millimeters (seven inches) in some areas, also impacted the tomato harvest which had gotten underway a few days earlier. Many growers idled their harvesting equipment. Fortunately, there appeared to be an ample supply of wagons loaded with the red fruit lined up at the Conagra processing plant in Dresden and in farmers’ fields.

In neighbouring Essex County, a handful of growers were cutting ruts in their fields with harvesting equipment. One grower said that Highbury Canco in Leamington required a supply of at least 70 tons per hour in order to keep its evaporation line operating. Restarting the line would require the re-sterilization of the processing equipment, a delay of two or three days, he said.

After this tillage demonstration scheduled for Aug. 17 was cancelled at this location north of Wheatley in Chatham-Kent, even more rain fell, turning the intended site into a small lake.

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