By Jane Gerster, The Canadian Press
Farmers are hoping rain expected this week will provide some relief to what was an abnormally dry July and the driest spring on record.
After the wet spring, Island farmers are finally getting their seeds in the ground. — Guardian photo
[HALIFAX, NS] — Farmers in the Maritimes are hoping rain expected this week will provide some relief to what was an abnormally dry July and the driest spring on record.
David Phillips, an Environment Canada climatologist, said three days of rainy weather is expected to start Wednesday and could be enough to help jump-start failing crops throughout the region.
Phillips said crops in areas of Prince Edward Island and Nova Scotia have suffered substantial damage after only receiving half of the normal rainfall amounts expected in July.
"It has been very warm, very dry and the thing that stands out for me in Eastern Canada is the persistence of it, the relentlessness of it," said Phillips from Toronto on Monday.
Although winter weather does not directly affect the growing season, Phillips said a wet winter usually means moisture will not be as much of an issue during the spring.
This year, the Maritimes struggled with a warm and dry winter, the driest spring on record, and is currently experiencing a hot and dry summer, said Phillips.
In eastern P.E.I., farmers who have already suffered substantial crop damage could have to stop irrigating some of their crops.
Gary Linkletter, a farmer in Summerside, said farmers are allowed to irrigate 10 per cent of their crops, but with this year's low water levels, the provincial government has put farmers on notice that they might have to stop using stream water for irrigation.
If that change is implemented, Linkletter said farmers across the island will be "at the mercy of what the weather man gives us".
"Fifty millimetres of rain over 24 hours right now would be ideal," said Linkletter. "We're certainly in a spot where we're starting to take damage."
While New Brunswick is doing better than other parts of the Maritimes, it has still only received two-thirds of the expected rainfall amount for July.
Joe Brennan, chair of the board of Potatoes New Brunswick, said while northern New Brunswick has been coping with less precipitation, crops in southern parts of the province are struggling.
Brennan said that the rainfall amounts in the next six weeks will determine if farmers are able to produce the crops they expect during the growing season.
"The crops are still holding up well at this point ... but I do think we are getting into a zone here where some significant moisture in the next couple of weeks is going to become pretty important," said Brennan from Bath, N.B.
Phillips said it's hard to predict if the abnormal weather conditions will continue next year, but the overall trend points towards warmer weather.