P.E.I. farmers concerned about lack of rain, increased number of heat warnings

·3 min read

CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. — With the second heat warning in less than a month for Prince Edward Island, coupled with very little rain since, some Island farmers are starting to worry about their crops and livestock.

A heat warning issued by Environment Canada on Thursday, Aug. 4, stated temperatures will be in the low 30s until Sunday, Aug. 7, with the humidex expected to bring temperatures as high as 39 C.

Alex Docherty, owner of Skye View Farms in Elmwood, said his crops are maintaining, but if rain doesn’t come soon, he could be in trouble.

“I wouldn’t call it a drought yet,” said Docherty.

“Within in a week if (rain) doesn’t start we’ll start to see some problems. It’s not a dire situation yet by any means.”

Water by hand

At Skye View, the land is not irrigated, so the crops are dependent on rain for survival.

Though these types of dry spells are common this time of year, in recent years Docherty has seen an increase in the number of hot days P.E.I. has in the summer.

“We’re at the mercy of mother nature. I guess all we can hope for it to finally rain,” he said.

Crystal Burke at Fortune Bridge Farms and Toby’s Farm Market has resorted to watering sections of her sunflower fields herself – a costly and time-consuming process.

The farm is four acres and must be watered daily.

“We’ve planted all of our flowers, but since they are too dry they are just not doing what they are supposed to do,” said Burke.

Toby’s Flower Festival – an annual week-long event hosted by the farm, had to be postponed due to the lack of rain.

With small amounts of rain in the forecast next week, Burke said she hopes it will be enough.

“Dry spells are not uncommon, but there seems it be a change in the climate in recent years,” she said.

Hosing down animals

Ken Sanderson at Hope River Farm said the dry spells have had an impact on the health of his livestock.

“It’s always a trick to get through these dry spells. It’s not good for the animals and it’s not good for farmers,” said Sanderson.

Extra steps must be taken to ensure the livestock stay cool, as most of the animals are housed outside.

Shade is provided for the livestock, and surrounding trees help the sheep stay out of the sun. Extra water is given to every animal but losses are still inevitable

Commercial cross-bred chickens are bred to grow big quickly. The hot weather causes many of them to have heart attacks.

On days where the temperature reaches over 30 C, Sanderson has resorted to hosing down his livestock.

“We could really use some rain which we’re hopefully going to get. A little rain would make all the difference,” said Sanderson.

There’s no question Atlantic Canada has seen hotter weather in recent years. In P.E.I., heat warnings that last for multiple days are becoming much more common, said Dan Bedell, communications director for the Canadian Red Cross, Atlantic region.

"If you are a farmer outdoors during the hottest hours of the day, drink plenty of cool drinks and you’ll want to know the humidex,” said Bedell.

Increased water consumption, wearing a hat and taking breaks more often is Bedell’s advice to farmers and residents alike.

Heat stroke and exhaustion is common during dry spells, avoiding alcohol and caffeine is important.

"We know (farmers) must work, but they should take the proper precautions. If your skin is hot to touch but not sweaty, that’s an immediate red flag,” Bedell said.

“These heat warnings are becoming more common, and we have to prepare of that.”

More information regarding heat-related illnesses can be found at http://www.RedCross.ca/heat

Rafe Wright, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, The Guardian

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