Wet, hot weather has caused 'exponential' crop growth. Local farmers say that's a mixed blessing

The spring and summer weather for 2024 has had a positive impact on crops, with farmers saying crops are having outstanding growth in their fields. But they say there are also some challenges.

According to the farmers, the weather throughout the spring and summer has led to growing conditions that some crop producers haven't seen in between 15 and 20 years.

Trevor Herrle-Braun of Herrle's Country Farm Market said increased rainfall means some crops have gone out of season earlier than usual.

"We've had an extremely wet but very hot spring, which is quite unusual around here, so things have been growing just at exponential rates," he told CBC News.

"We're probably about a good 10 days to two weeks early on a lot of our crops this year, and you know, it's even everywhere in Ontario as well too. We're seeing the season push on very, very quickly. What that's going to do on the back end of the season, we have no idea yet, but the growing conditions have been ideal."

The Chinese vegetables are thriving in the red Island soil.
Angie Koch, of Fertile Ground Farm in St. Agatha, says it has been 'a really great season for most crops,' except for some greens. (CBC)

Herrle-Braun said "there's been great yield so far," but he said this has happened a lot faster than farmers or consumers were prepared for.

"Our strawberry season is just winding up and usually a lot of people, after Canada Day, that's when they make jam, that's been the calendar for them for years. So, to have strawberry season kind of end already has been a little bit of a shock for, I think, a lot of people," he said.

According to the University of Waterloo Weather Station, June was a very consistent month for precipitation with storms coming through every few days and no overly wet days — none above 20 mm. In its monthly summary the station said the total precipitation was 78.4 mm, which is above the average of 70.1 mm, but still within the average range.

'A really great season for most crops'

Angie Koch, of Fertile Ground Farm in St. Agatha, said it has been "a really great season for most crops," except for some greens that like cooler weather.

"The heat came on early this year. It kind of made some of the greens bolt. But a lot of things are one to two weeks ahead of where they would normally be. So carrots, beets, peas, zucchini, cucumbers, cabbages are all coming out of the ground right now," Koch said.

"One of the things that has been great about this season is that a lot of the rain has come overnight and on weekends, which is not so nice necessarily for folks who want to go to the cottage or the park, but has meant that when we're needing to be working in the fields, we've generally had pretty good weather.

"Rain has come in the amounts of about an inch a week, which is, for vegetable producers, about what we need. The nights have cooled down a bit so that plants can recover from the heat that we've had during the day. Those have all been helpful things. Often we have more drought this time of year and that hasn't really happened," she added.

Koch said it is of note that "we didn't have a late frost. Sometimes we get caught with a later frost into June and that kills off some plants. But that didn't happen this year."

Marty Vermer, an agronomist with the Grain Farmers of Ontario, says the current conditions are consistent with weather patterns over the last couple of decades,

"Every 10 years, it seems to be there's a year that we get perfect conditions, another year we get very abnormal conditions," he said.

"We've seen these kinds of springs before ... a wet spring. It's our turn to have it this year… Some years it's dry. The year before was a really ideal spring. Everything seemed to get planted in a week and that's just ideal. We have to pay for that sometime and this year it was the case."

Some crops negatively impacted

Meanwhile, Herrle-Braun said some crops were negatively affected by the weather.

"We had our challenges with strawberries. There's definitely a little bit more disease that happens when things push on that quickly," he said.

"Slugs were a big issue, and because we didn't have that cold freezing winter that we normally have that usually kills off the first group of slugs, now we're noticing them in some of our snap beans too. So, it's something we're having to contend with now too — they're migrating over from the strawberries into our snap beans."