Early Summer Sun Boosts Crops On Finnish Farms

Hot weather means earlier planting and earlier harvests - but farmers warn that too much sunshine & not enough rain can lead to drought in some parts of the country.

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File picture of strawberries / Credit: News Now Finland

Finland’s farmers are making hay while the sun shines.

The early start to summer with temperatures as high as +29C in the last few weeks have helped boost an industry hit with bad weather and poor harvests just last autumn.

Crops grown through the winter can be harvested early; while crops that are planted in spring will be in supermarkets and on tables sooner than usual.

But farmers caution that too much warm weather is not necessarily a good thing.

At Illby Gård near Porvoo, strawberry farmer Peter Boije af Gennäs says the long sunny days and high temperatures will likely mean field-grown strawberries are ripe before Midsummer this year.

While greenhouse-grown domestic strawberries can already be found in shops, field-grown berries from Illby Gård wouldn’t normally be ready until later.

“We usually get them in the beginning of July, we have quite a late assortment of strawberries. We don’t want them to be too early as we sell them to people who are coming to pick strawberries for themselves, and July is the month when people have their holidays” explains Boije af Gennäs.

“But if the weather continues like this, maybe we can get them already one week before Midsummer” he adds.

Finnish farmers produce up to 14 million kilos of strawberries each summer, but in 2017 a cold spring meant a late crop, with growers still harvesting strawberries well into mid-August, an unusual situation in southern Finland.

Strawberry farmer Peter Boije af Gennäs says that he’s seen apple trees already full of blossoms, and hopes it’s the same situation with strawberries. Every flower on a strawberry plant produces a berry, and plastic sheets over the fields help keep them warm and blooming.

“Always in Finland there is a risk the weather will change and become colder, and when the flowers are coming it shouldn’t be cold. Some years we have had minus degrees and we have to protect them. I think it’s a little bit exception this year having three weeks now of hot weather, and we hope that its going to stay like this” he says.

However, Boije af Gennäs says farmers need rain as well to keep the crops irrigated. At his farm he can take water from a stream for the strawberries but not every farmer can do that.

Cereal Crops, Veggies Also Enjoy An Early Summer

The unusual warm weather – by comparison, Central Finland didn’t record any days with the temperature above +25C last year – is also helping Finnish cereal and vegetable farmers.

“For sure Finland is not usually used to a warm and fairly dry weather at the beginning of the season” says Max Schuler from the Central Union of Agriculture Owners MTK.

“We have this nice beautiful weather everyone likes, but if it continues for too long we might have a drought problem. Until now though, there is not anything severe on the horizon” he adds.

Some parts of the country are more prone to drought than others. In areas where the farmland has a heavy clay soil, or in Ostrobothnia where there are lighter soils, too much warm weather combined with low rainfall can be problematic.

Although the winter persisted, with snow falling still in March and April, the sudden onset of warm sunny weather meant farmers can plant their spring crops earlier and take advantage of a longer summer.

“A lot of these crops you harvest earlier. New potatoes around Midsummer, or even now. Salad, lettuce, you would start getting them in late late June, July, August into September. The farmers can now plant earlier in the whole of Finland” says Schuler.

“It looked like we would have a late spring but suddenly we have caught up quite nicely” he says.

The recent heatwave has been keeping arable farmers busy. Along the Ostrobothnia coast most of the spring grains like barley and oats are already sown.
According to ProAgria, the agricultural advisory and development organization, spring planting in the south and east are just a few days behind schedule, while in north Ostrobthnia, Kainuu and Lapland fields need more time to dry after a winter of heavy snow.

“In winter, wheat and rye are the main two crops. And then we used to have a small amount of winter oil seed rape. You plant it in the autumn and harvest the next autumn, it grows for a full year” says MTK’s Max Schuler.

“With this warm weather, you can find cabbage, fava beans, veggies, carrots, onions, a lot of these spring vegetables will be growing well”.