Most field crops dodge weather bullet in Ontario

06/12/2012 09:50:00 AM
Coral Beach

Although asparagus yields are down sharply, most of Ontario’s field produce survived the unseasonable weather in March and April, with some commodities enjoying early starts to harvest.

The late April freeze that decimated the Ontario apple crop could have been a big problem for the province’s strawberry growers if most of them had not taken extensive measures to avoid damage.

As it turned out, warm temperatures in March and April gave some strawberries a jump start that translated into harvest beginning as early as Mother’s Day in some fields.

Eric Chanyi, operations director for Shabatura Produce, Windham Centre, Ontario, said employees at the Norfolk County growing operation worked hard setting up row covers and running water over night to protect the young strawberry plants.

“It worked. We started picking May 15. The sizes are good, and the berries are very sweet,” Chanyi said.

Chanyi said other commodities at Shabatura also are developing about two weeks earlier than usual. However, drought conditions in May were a problem, and he said growers who did not have access to irrigation water likely have losses.

Shabatura fields of bell peppers and tomatoes will likely see harvest begin in mid-July, Chanyi said. Sweet corn is on target and could be ready the first week of July.

The sweet corn around Scotland, Ontario, where Welsh Bros. Farm is located, also is shaping up for an early July harvest, according to Charles Welsh, a partner.

Sweet corn will be later in Vittoria, according to Joe Didiano, director of Vittoria, Ontario, company added about 20% to its corn acreage and 40% to its watermelon operation for this season.

Didiano said the corn harvest is expected to begin around July 18, with watermelons a few days later.

Steve Chary, president of Chary Produce, Oakland, Ontario, said yields for sweet corn, zucchini, tomatoes, cabbage and bell peppers are all projected at normal levels this season.

“We’ll have zucchini real soon,” Chary said June 1. “The sweet corn is looking good for July 1 and most of the other vegetables will start around the end of June if things hold and we get regular rain.”

At Gwillimdale Farms Ltd., Bradford, Ontario, the dry conditions in May caused concern, but a soaking rain the first weekend of June reassured owners Cristina and John Hambly.

Gwillimdale grows onions, potatoes, carrots, parsnips and beets, and as of June 1 everything was “in the ground,” Cristina Hambly said. The beets are expected to lead the way, with harvest beginning as early as July 1.

In the Waterford, Ontario, area the scenario is very similar, according to Cheryl Magalas, who owns Magalas Produce Ltd. with her husband, Martin Magalas. They grow strawberries, zucchini, cantaloupe, sweet corn, tomatoes and roma tomatoes.

“It seems like everything is ahead of schedule this season and we actually picked June bearing strawberries and cut zucchini for the first time in May,” Cheryl Magalas said.

The Magalas cantaloupe and tomatoes thrived through the dry conditions in May, Cheryl Magalas said. She is expecting good yields with tomato harvest likely starting in late June. She said the farm has been irrigating its sweet corn to ensure size. It is anticipated to be ready beginning in early July.



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