A long, dry fall may be just what many growers caught out by the late spring wanted, but the warm, sunny weather prompted provincial authorities to raise the drought rating in many parts of the province to the highest level last week.
The Lower Mainland, Sunshine Coast and Western Vancouver Island are all now at Level 5 drought, which means adverse impacts are “almost certain.”
A further seven regions are at Level 4, when adverse impacts are likely. These regions include eastern Vancouver Island, the Kettle and three basins in the Peace as well as Fort Nelson.
It’s a marked shift from a year ago, when October was well on its way to logging what proved to be twice the usual amount of rain for the month.
While last year’s rainfall replenished groundwater in many regions, the absence of rain this fall has raised fears that plants will be less prepared for the onset of colder temperatures.
Alexis Arthur of Pacific Forage Bag Supply in Delta says dry weather is what many forage corn growers dreamed of. Some planted as late as July 14, which in a normal season would mean an incredibly short window for maturing the crop.
This year, growers who went with the flow and allowed their crops to mature in the hopes of a dry autumn have been repaid handsomely.
“Corn that wouldn’t be as tall as it was, was,” she says.
But the long season comes with a cost.
“There’s always some form of payment,” Arthur says. “Many who are putting in cover crops, because they realize they have the opportunity to, because they may need more tonnage based on what’s been happening over the last couple of seasons … it’s very dry.”
But the weather has its own cycles, even if those cycles are becoming more extreme and variable, and Arthur says the rains will come. It’s just a question of when, and with what intensity.
“The wet’s coming; it’s just how much will come and in how short a time,” she says.
She expects everything will be filled up by next spring, but depending on how the rain arrives, some farmers could find half their fields flooded.
Current forecasts call for relatively dry weather through next week, with the 90-day outlook calling for the firs half of winter to be wetter than average.