Prince Edward Island potato farmer John Visser is expecting a shortfall this growing season.
The reason: no rain.
“The bills will not get paid,” he says.
His family grows over 445 hectares of potatoes on their third-generation farm in Victoria.
The lack of rain means only about a 40 to 60 per cent crop this growing season, with 60 per cent being the best-case scenario.
“This is my 41st crop, and this is the driest season I’ve experienced.”
Ryan Barrett is a research and agronomy specialist with the PEI Potato Board.
A PEI moratorium on the drilling of high capacity wells for agriculture is preventing farmers from using irrigation to help out.
“Historically, we get 80 to 90 mm of rain a month in the growing season, and that’s sufficient for the crop,” Barrett explains. “We see in the last 20 years, particularly the last five to six, an increasing trend of more weeks with no rain — and more months with very small rainfall in July and August, particularly.”
The growing season has been especially bad this year because it came on the heels of below-average rainfall in May and June.
“A lot of the crops, a lot of the potatoes, had a moisture deficit to start and then they continued that through the whole summer, and so some parts of the island have had less than a third of the normal amount of rainfall,” he adds. “The ones that do survive, they just shut down, and the plant grows very little without moisture.”