Pearce: Rain expected to stall Ontario potato planting progress

Planting in the Delhi region on April 18. (Supplied photos)

Rainfall expected for much of southern Ontario is expected to narrow what’s been a relatively early planting window for Ontario’s potato growers.

Two weeks ago, the reports from the Ontario Potato Board were full of warm temperatures and dry soils, and growers, particularly around Leamington and Delhi, took full advantage. One farmer in the Delhi area managed to plant red potatoes under sunny skies, a temperature of 16 C and dry soil conditions on April 18.

During the first week of May, however, a special weather statement from Environment Canada in effect for all of southern Ontario will likely put a hold on planting — of any crop — for at least the next week.

Some parts of the region are forecast to receive between 40 and 70 mm of precipitation from Thursday to Sunday, which could exacerbate an already-saturated soil base across many parts of the province.

Still, there are some positive signs on planting, at least in the potato sector. Reports from the Ontario Potato Board indicate the 2017 processing potato crop has been planted around Leamington. On one farm in that corner of Essex County, Dakota Pearls planted on April 12 have emerged and are reportedly healthy looking.

In the Delhi area, one farmer cited rainfall totals of three inches on his farm during the last week, and though he doesn’t believe there’ll be any planting done in that area for the next week, he estimates between 30 and 40 per cent of the crop there has been planted.

As for other parts of the province, fields in the Alliston area that were fall-fumigated have standing water between the rows, reported on Monday. One farmer near Bowmanville, east of Toronto is waiting for dry weather before he can get back to planting.

In all, there have been about 1,800 acres of potatoes planted in Ontario.

— Ralph Pearce is a field editor for Country Guide at St. Marys, Ont. Follow him at @arpee_AG on Twitter.

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