Maritime fruit farmers fear heavy losses after June frost
Published Thursday, June 7, 2018 6:42PM ADT
Last Updated Thursday, June 7, 2018 10:43PM ADT
The weekend frost that killed crops around the region is going to cost farmers millions.
In some cases, up to 80 per cent of early flowering fruits and vegetables have been destroyed. With frost-bitten plants drooping, sagging, and brown farmers and academics say they've never seen anything like it.
New Brunswick grape producer Zach Everett counts himself among the lucky ones
“We feel blessed where we have 50 per cent damage where a lot of our friends and industry growers have significantly more damage,” he said. “Soit's one of those things where when you're happy to only lose 50 per cent, something went wrong that year.”
In New Brunswick, there are 150 acres of grapes being cultivated and he estimates as much as two-thirds of that was wiped out by the harsh frost.
“If you go into farming, you can't expect that every season is going to be perfect,” Everett said.
Christian Michaud is the president of the New Brunswick Agricultural Alliance and a farmer. He anticipated the frost and resorted to pre-freezing his strawberry plants as a way to insulate them. He says many other crops across the province were left vulnerable.
“Finally, after a few nice days of warm weather that helped the buds and the flowers to develop we get a killing frost two days after,” Michaud said.
Conditions aren’t any better in the heart of blueberry country in northwestern Nova Scotia where farmer Neil Erb estimates 80 per cent of his 1,000 acres were killed by frost. With a potential loss of $3,000 per acre in gross revenue, that’s a big financial hit.
“We would probably have had 6,000 pounds per acre on this land here, depending what the blueberry price would be,” Erb said.
Professor David Percival works in the Department of Plants, Food and Environmental Sciences at Dalhousie University. He says this is the worst frost he's seen in 20 years and it's affecting farmers around the region.
“The crops that would be most adversely affected are those just coming into bloom, so there'd be grapes, strawberries, apples, and in this case, blueberries,” Percival said.
Blueberries fields produce every two years so this crop, and many others like it, are out of commission until 2020. Farmers aren't sure they'll survive until then without help from the government.
With files from Jonathan MacInnis.