Most farmers have hung up their hats for the year as this winter quickly closes in, but for soybean growers in West Prince and across the Island the year’s harvest is in jeopardy.
Soybeans are a relatively new crop to PEI, and require dry weather in order to be harvested. But so far this fall the weather has been notoriously wet, meaning that roughly 30,000 of acres of soybeans are still to be taken in. Now with the new snowfall many farmers may not be able to harvest at all, and their crops will be lost.
Garth Wilkie, owner of Wilkie Farms and 110 acres of soybeans, said the weather this fall has been frustrating.
“We still have half the crop to take off, and we haven’t had two good days to do it all fall. We need at least a week of good weather to start cutting, and we’ve had this rain off and on since October.”
Mr Wilkie said there’s little to do but hope that he and other growers get lucky with a string of good days.
“There’s not much you can do but wait,” he said “We’ve already passed our crop insurance date, so at the bank they’re already considering it a loss.”
With the new snowfall, the beans will take even more time to dry off before they can be harvested, so total loss of what’s left of the soybeans is a possibility.
Alphonse Profit owns 350 acres of soybeans waiting to be harvested, and is also disheartened to have to wait so long into the season.
“There’s no point worrying about it. It’s the people at the bank that’ll be doing the worrying. It’s a little hard to say what will happen. We may not get to harvest at all. If we don’t, then we’ll be looking at a shortage.”
Late harvests of soybeans have happened before, Mr Wilkie said.
“We’ve cut beans in Novemeber before, and as long as we don’t get any snow we could go as late as early December before we start harvesting them. But eventually the seed pods will start to swell as the beans inside get bigger with all the moisture. When they swell up and break open they lose their market value, so there would be no point to harvesting them.”
This isn’t an issue limited to West Prince, or even just to PEI, Mr Wilkie said.
“All across PEI and throughout the East Coast is all seeing the same problem,” he said. “I know of someone in Maine where they had all their snow that said they didn’t get to harvest beforehand and are actually hoping that they’ll be able to harvest if it all melts away. The weather’s been a little abnormal this year.”
As the winter’s frost looms on the horizon, the cold weather might actually be a benefit to Island soybean growers, Mr Profit said.
“If we were to get some frost that would dry the beans right up and we’d be able to harvest them. It’s that, or it’s the two or three days of good weather.”
Until such a change in weather, local growers can only wait, and hope that they don’t lose an entire year’s hard work in this last home-stretch of the season. Hopes are high as always, though, said Mr Wilkie.
“We’re hoping for that good weather,” he said. “Farmers have to be eternally optimistic.”