2018 - A Year in Review

  Hort Snacks - January 2019
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 I ALWAYS recommend to people (clients, etc.) that they take some time to look back on the previous year and reflect on what happened, in the hope that they can figure out what worked, what didn’t work, and what needs to be changed for the future. While that recommendation is nice, and ideally, it is more efficient to do it all at once, I find that after an entire year, it is hard to remember what happened in any detail. This is complicated by the fact that we spend a lot of time suppressing/repressing the bad stuff. So, maybe write stuff down monthly and do a yearend review. Yeah, that might work.

If I had to quickly summarize 2018 as a year, and have a conversation with it, I’d probably shout “Go home, you’re drunk!” to it. While this wasn’t one of the worst years ever, I’d say that it was one of the weirdest I’ve experienced in some time.

  • I’d normally start in the winter time, since that is where the year technically starts (and ends) but some of the weirdest stuff happened in spring. Or was it summer? Or fall? It was hard to tell. We went from typically spring-ish weather directly into the deep, intense heat and dryness of mid-late summer, then back spring (minus the moisture), then into hot and dry. Winter arrived before fall did (unless you count the 3 hours of fall that preceded first winter) and hit hard and fast, along with the moisture that had been missing all summer in most areas. Heavy snows and definitely cold weather seemed like it was going to stick around permanently, but then things rebounded and we got late summer/fall in October. And now we are back to winter, just in time for … more winter. It was not impressive and was definitely challenging for producers to plant, grow and then harvest a crop.
  • This year, we avoided the brutal frosts that did a number on many of the crops a couple of years ago, but some of the weird winter weather was damaging for many of the orchard bush fruit crops, particularly in the south and south-central regions. Not a stellar Saskatoon berry and sour cherry crop this year, but hopefully next year will be better.
  • Similar to the last few winters, Winter 2017/2018 was a bit variable, with long, cold snaps, with a few mild stretches, just to keep us guessing. The dryness of the winter in a number of areas was suggested as being to blame for some of the orchard issues.
  • Stress was a pretty good descriptor of the growing season weather that we had, although that would be the first time I’ve used that word to describe weather. The hot temperatures of Springummer (spring/summer combo) was quite stressful on the newly awakening plants. I noticed that many of our street trees had thinner canopies this year, and produced a MASSIVE crop of seeds. In my town, the ground looked like it had snowed, the elm seeds were so thick. We also saw the impact of this early heat in some stunting and poor head development of some of the cool season crops, such as Cole crops like cabbage and broccoli. Later plantings were ok, but the early stuff never amounted to anything.
  • Depending on where you live, it was probably fairly dry, or it ended up that way. Southern and some central parts definitely started off pretty wet, and most areas finished the season overly wet (usually in the form of solid, frozen wetness). If you had irrigation, that made a dry year bearable. If you didn’t, you would have seen sizing issues, and a yield hit.
  • Severe weather events seem to be a perennial challenge for producers most of the time now, although it wasn’t something that seemed to come up as much this year (thankfully). Hail always hits, but things seemed quieter on that front this year.
  • A sneaky (while also obvious) issue this year was the wildfire smoke coming out of the west or the south. While a week or so of smoke isn’t all that uncommon in recent years, this year was notable and certainly had an impact on the vigour and growth of crops, due to the reduced light and poor air quality. It was also hard on those working out in it. I tended to limit my efforts outside on really bad days to 1-2 pack-equivalent increments.
  • Insects seemed to be a bit quiet this season, which is fine. However, I did hear lots about spruce tree issues, which have been building for the past few years. In this case, the problems aren’t insect-related, but it is tough to pin down a culprit (although Rhizosphaera is currently the culprit-elect), but there are issues, regardless. Other issues in forestry-type plants included the discovery of Mountain Pine Beetle in municipalities outside of the forested areas, which isn’t great. Keep your eyes peeled in the future, as we’re going to need to stay sharp to detect and deal with this and other pests.
  • We didn’t see much in terms of disease issues this year, although there were reports of some soil-borne challenges in carrots, the causes of which are still not completely clear to me. As many (better than me) pathologists have resorted to (with good success), we can chalk it up to a combination of (unnamed) factors, any one of which might have resulted in the resulting damage. Fortunately, the generally dry conditions limited the development of most diseases.
  • Continuing some of the previous year’s fun, there continues to be impacts from introduced or changed legislation and programs, with some sectors affected more than others. Things like minimum wage, Farm Safety Legislation and other things are taking some adjustment. There are some looming changes to federal legislation (Safe Food for Canadians Act) happening in the New Year, which will have impacts for many.
  • Growing Forward 2 programing (and associated funding) wrapped up at the end of March, and this has resulted in some noticeable changes in the amount of programing offered by Horticulture staff. With the newly launched Canadian Agricultural Partnership (CAP), there may be programs available for producers, associations and others to access, to get things done. While we wait for things to shake out, it might be a bit quieter. Reduced resources and staff in my area means I’ll have to be creative to do more with less. But plans are underway, so stay tuned.
  • While there were a few less events this year, we continue to talk to many people on the phone or via email (and this won’t change). It was a rewarding year and I hope that we were able to help out in a positive, impactful way.
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This information published to the web on December 12, 2018.