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Niagara Falls
Sunday, September 24, 2023
Farmers keeping close eye on crops after heavy rainfall
Thwaites Farms off of Lakeshore Road experienced some damage to its peaches from the hail storm earlier this week. (Supplied)

Grape growers and tender fruit farmers are carefully watching over their vineyards and orchards after hail and a few days of heavy rain rocked parts of Niagara-on-the-Lake.

“The crop has looked really nice up to now so we are concerned if this (weather) pattern keeps going what’s going to happen,” said Matthias Oppenlaender, chair of Grape Growers of Ontario. 

He said some of his crops had some damage due to the hail storm that passed through NOTL earlier this week, but that as long as he can get some crop protection on the vines within the next few days, they should be fine.

He’ll need to spray the vines that experienced hail to protect them from powdery mildew.

The mildew can grow in areas with very high humidity and rain, much like what Niagara has been experiencing, so it’s a concern, said Debbie Zimmerman, CEO of Grape Growers of Ontario.

Scott MacSween, who operates Quiet Acres Farm in NOTL, said the hail affected 30 acres of peaches and nectarines on two of his farms along Lakeshore Road.

While workers are picking the fruit, they’ll have to discard the ones that are bruised due to the hail.

“It’s very unfortunate, but it could have been a lot worse,” he said.

He has about 230 acres of tender fruit in total.

“The other 200 acres are fine — that’s the main thing,” he said.

He’s grateful that the hail did not affect his crop more severely and that it only lasted a short time.

However, he’s concerned about the rain that was expected to start Wednesday night and fall until Thursday morning.

“That’s what’s got us a little bit worried,” he said.

For grape growers, it’s still early, said Zimmerman, so they’ll have to wait and see what happens.

“If we can get in and get the right crop pesticides on them, they’ll be fine, as long as the weather starts getting dry,” said Oppenlaender.

Phil Tregunno, from Tregunno Fruit Farms, was one of the lucky ones who didn’t get hail — likely due to his Parkway-area location away from the lake.

“Just a lot of rain. We could use it to stop,” he said.

Erwin Wiens, a NOTL grape grower and deputy lord mayor of Niagara-on-the-Lake, said his farm didn’t have any hail either.

However, he said that “excess rain is not helpful right now.”

It washes away all the spray that farmers put on their vines to keep diseases, like powdery mildew, at bay. 

So once it dries, workers will need to spray again, he said. 

He added that with conditions being so wet, farmers can’t get workers or tractors out to the fields as excessive rain can also cause drainage issues.  

“We’re at the mercy of Mother Nature,” said Wiens.

On a positive note, said Zimmerman, growers have done a great job bringing back their crops after they suffered serious damage last year.

“We work with Mother Nature and what we’re given and we have the tools sometimes to mitigate some of the challenges,” she said.

“But I would say growers are looking forward hopefully to a decent crop.”

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