BC may have had the hottest and driest summer in decades, but fears of a huge cost in crops don’t seem to have been born out.
Statistics from the ministry of agriculture show crop insurance claims for 2015 are among the lowest in a decade – and less than half than the average for that period.
That flies in the face of what many had expected, given length and severity of the hot, dry weather. At the peak of the summer, many farmers were fearing the worst.
So what happened?
Looking at the numbers
Farmer and agriculture professor at the University of the Fraser Valley Tom Baumann says reports from the fields weren’t wrong, there were losses. But they weren’t all insurable.
“Overall, the yields were down, absolutely down. But you have to think about how crop insurance, when that triggers. The minimum you have to lose is 20%. If you don’t lose 20% you’re not going to get paid.”
But he says in many of those cases, farmers actually did just as well because lower yields led to better prices at market.
He says in other cases, as with sweet corn and some animal fodders, the crops simply weren’t insured.
“The strangest things have happened this year.”
He says while the summer was long, hot, and dry, that heat wave didn’t happen suddenly. And while that felt extreme to us, many fruit actually had time to acclimate to the change.
“What happened, the plants and the fruit got slowly adjusted to the heat. The plants somehow acclimatized to it. The plants fared very well on that.”
Baumann says this phenomenon is still not well understood, and is the topic of an upcoming agricultural seminar in the US.
Baumann says the final factor which may have been decisive was how well the fields were irrigated. He says in the last two decades there was a major push by the province to get farmers to adopt newer, more efficient irrigation systems which paid off this summer.
“There were some incentives being paid out to plan for that. We were actually prepared. And very few people actually ran out of water outright in the Fraser valley.”
He adds while the numbers aren’t final and there are still a few claims winding their way through the system, he doesn’t think the final numbers will climb much higher this year.