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‘Hot and dry weather is a good thing’, farmers comment on ‘drought-like’ May

It's likely not the optimistic tone many people might expect to hear, after days of high temperatures and constant sunshine.

"We've actually had almost a drought in May. A drought in May, in Ontario, you could not ask for anything better," said Peter Johnson.

Johnson is an agronomist who hosts a weekly podcast called Wheat Pete’s Word, "So far, it's just going gangbusters and hopefully we keep doing that."

Springfield-area farmer Greg Fentie said moisture from the winter and some good rains early in the spring were key, "As long as the seed was planted in moisture, a little bit of hot weather and dry weather is a good thing."

Johnson and Fentie said many crops, including soybeans and corn, are like people; for them, a little bit of stress is actually a good thing.

"This dry weather will allow those roots to penetrate further down into the ground,” said Fentie. “Scavenge more moisture, scavenge more nutrients, and actually set the crop up better later on in the season."

There are variables though. High spots will loose moisture faster, soil that has more sand or clay needs more rain, and grain crops need more water.

Agronomist and podcaster Peter Johnson inspected a field near Lucan, Ont. on June 1, 2023. (Gerry Dewan/CTV News London)

"They need rain quite badly, if they can get it,” said Johnson. “They're surviving on subsoil moisture."

Fentie said the rain also helps with the fertilizing process.

With fertilizer prices still high, farmers want to get the best bang for their buck.

"That fertilizer pellet doesn't just hop over into the plant. It needs a little bit of moisture to carry it there. We need some moisture to fill that grain head out," said Fentie.

Johnson said farmers have long relied on each other for ideas on how to deal with issues like drought stress, disease, and pests. He said doing the podcast and interacting on social media has only amplified that experience.

Springfield-area farmer Greg Fentie checked the moisture depth on June 1, 2023, to see how far down corn seeds need to go. (Gerry Dewan/CTV News London)

"It's like a coffee shop on steroids,” he said. The sharing of ideas and solutions now operates on a global scale, "I get questions from Texas, from South Africa, from Australia. It's a global reach and it shows you how big that coffee shop has become."

Johnson and Fentie said strides have been made to develop more drought tolerant corn.

Johnson said work is now being done on more drought tolerant wheat as well. Top Stories

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