Brad DeMille is uncertain there’ll be home-grown sweet corn this summer.
The lingering wet weather and cool overnight temperatures have the DeMille’s Farm Market operator concerned about this year’s crop at the DeMille’s farm, run by Brad’s father Rodger.
“We’re really getting close to the go or not go line,” said DeMille, explaining corn typically needs a ground temperature of 15 C to germinate.
“When you get averages like what we’ve been dealing with, four degrees at night and what’s today’s high? 13? Horrible,” said DeMille, explaining how planting would likely result in the seed rotting. “This big seed is treated so it doesn’t rot and so the worms don’t eat it, but that only lasts a certain amount of time. The seed will still swell. When it swells, then it opens up to rot. And if it sits in the ground for more than even a week or two weeks… it’s just going to rot.”
DeMille said corn seed currently sells for about $2,000 for a 50-lb. bag, or about three cents a seed.
“That only equates to one cob of corn…,” he explained. “Modern varieties of corn, the energy of the corn is primarily focused on just producing one cob… and that’s it.
Factoring in the seed with other associated costs, along with the 75 days it takes for corn to grow, DeMille said if the weather were to become more amenable by about June 7, the crop wouldn’t be ready to harvest until about the third week of August. By then, he questions what is the point, as most of his summer clientele will have come and gone.
“A good indicator for farmers – the end of your season is often defined as when it goes to less than 10 degrees at night. And here we are… We’re seeing end of season weather right now and we’ve had this end of season weather for three weeks now and it’s horrible.”
Last summer was also horrible for DeMille’s corn-growing season, though that was due to the extreme heat and accompanying wildfires throughout the region.
“Last year we had about a 40 per cent crop with the smoke, fire and heat,” said DeMille. “In June it got too hot and nothing really grows after about 35 C. Photosynthesis stops at about 38 C. Tree fruits. Everything just stops. When you get these big field crops and it’s 45 C out there and then it doesn’t cool off at night, you can’t keep enough water on it.”
In addition, said DeMille, the wildfire smoke filtered out the sun, “so no bees were flying, no insects were out, no air moved and nothing grew.”
“We saw anomalies and changes in that corn last year that were just very, very bizarre,” said DeMille. “And we’ve been doing this – we grew corn in California in 1970 before we moved here. Dad (Rodger DeMille) knows his stuff and he’d never seen those circumstances and that poor of a corn crop.
“It was undoubtedly our poorest corn crop and I think we’re going to be competing with that achievement from last year.”
Brad said he may have to bring in corn from the Lower Mainland, but added there too the weather hasn’t been ideal.
“I don’t know what’s going to happen,” he said. “We’re going to have B.C. Coast corn. We at this point won’t have corn, I don’t think, until the 15th of August this year, if at all.”
The above story has been updated to include clarifications/corrections.
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