Severe drought affecting South Dundas farmers

A few showers over the weekend has not helped the drought farmers in South Dundas are dealing with this year.

“No one can remember this, where it starts dry and stays dry like this,” said Warren Schneckenburger of Cedar Lodge Farms.

“This is a once in a hundred year drought. We’ve had droughts before but not like this.”

South Nation Conservation issued a Level 2 Drought warning on July 8th due to the lack of spring and early summer rain.

“It’s a crop insurance claim year,” stated Schneckenburger. “Corn is already below the threshold for crop insurance. If we had had rain two weeks ago, it would have been a different story.”

The high heat has not been good for corn, but  soy beans have fared better.

“They prefer 30 degree weather,” said Schneckenburger. “Corn shuts down but Soy doesn’t.”

Soy bean growth is tied to the length of day, so the long days of July and August are a plus for that crop.

“They continue to grow but they are suffering. We won’t have a record crop but it will be okay.”

Farmers with a diversified growing plan wont be at a complete loss.

“It was a good year for winter rye this year,” said Schneckenburger. “Last fall helped that grow, it was well established. Straw was good too.”

It has not been a good year for haying, which may lead to shortages and higher expenses for farmers who rely on that for livestock.

While farms like Schneckenburger’s have a variety of crops to draw on, one grower is praying for much needed rain, and soon.

“We are in dire need of rain,” said Dean Beckstead of Smyth’s Apple Orchard in Dundela.

“A couple of good days of rain will go a long way.”

The lack of rain this season is causing a size issue on apple orchards.

“We have a beautiful crop, if only there was rain. Without some, a lot of the apples won’t make grade this year.”

Workers at Smyth’s have been inspecting the 100 acre orchard and culling some of the crop.

“We’re removing the smallest apples to give the bigger ones a chance to grow and make grade,” said Beckstead.

For Beckstead, a poor harvest could not come at a worst time with the orchard investing in a new packing and grading line to increase capacity this year.

“We planned ahead, we did the right stuff at the start of the season to increase our yield,” said Beckstead. “This is just an all around kick in the rear end.”

Apple growers in South Dundas are not the only ones dealing with this issue.

“All the orchards are hurting this season in Ontario,” Beckstead stated. “Except for the ones on Lake Ontario where they can tie into the lake and irrigate.”

For an orchard the size and location of Smyth’s, irrigation is not feasible

“This is one industry that is 100% tied to Mother Nature, all the time.”

Another risk for growers with the hot and humid weather is the type of storms that can form.

“That intense heat and humidity means when there is a storm we could get hail. That would end the crop for us then and there.”
Orchards, like other farms, do have crop insurance in the event of crop failure.

“You don’t get rich off crop insurance,” stated Beckstead. “It helps with the expenses but that is it.”

The three-month forecast from Environment Canada doesn’t give much hope for relief from the warmer weather, but does point to some ‘above-average’ precipitation for the area.

South Nation Conservation forecasts show that a significant amount of rain for many days is needed for relief from the drought.

“It can’t come soon enough,” stated Beckstead.

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