PLATTSBURGH — This year’s weather has switched from hot and dry to wet and humid and back again — and that has had had a negative effect on many crops.
But it’s not as bad as it could have been, says Peter Hagar, agricultural program educator at Cornell Cooperative Extension of Clinton County. And the season’s harvest will likely be better than last year’s.
The flooding and excessive rain in both springtime 2011 and then Tropical Storm Irene last August set farmers back and heavily damaged crops, he said.
“Last year, they were way behind in planting and harvesting.”
It might seem this growing season has been much drier, he said. “(But) we’re not that far from normal rainfall.”
The dry spell in mid and late July did set crop growth and development back, though, he said.
Clinton County was not hit as hard as in Franklin and Essex counties, he said.
“I think they’re (the crops) not going to be as good as they had hoped,” he said, but harvests this season should still be decent in size.
And growth that was slowed by the lack of rain in the area has recovered some with the recent rainfall, he said.
Steve Tucker of Tucker Farms in Gabriels can attest to that. His potato crop went dormant in the heat; by early August, the spuds were maybe half as large as they should have been.
Then the rain returned.
His potatoes, he said on Wednesday, “perked up. The tops look good.”
Had the rain held off much longer, though, “they might not have come out of their sleep.”
Harvest will come later, Tucker added, perhaps a week or two so the spuds can reach optimum growth.
CORN PRICES UP
Corn, one of the most important crops in the region, has still suffered despite increased rainfall, Hagar said.
“Corn is a very high-moisture crop.”
But damage to corn crops here isn’t nearly as bad as it’s been elsewhere. The triple-digit temperatures and lack of rain in the Midwest has been devastating for farmers and their corn crops, he said.
“It is extremely bad in the Midwest.”
And because there will be a lower corn-crop yield nationally, prices will go up on the vegetable everywhere.
This may benefit local farmers who grow corn, but it will be detrimental those who buy it for feed, among them some dairy producers in the region.
Hay harvests have been more successful.
Most of the larger farms in the area have already harvested hay at least once, and many have had second and even third cuts, Hagar said.
The weather is not the only thing that has hurt the agricultural industry in this area this season.
Insects, such as the army worm blown into the area on spring winds, have ravaged some corn.
Hay crops sustained some damage, too.
“The early warm weather sort of gave the bugs a jumpstart,” Hagar said.
Army-worm damage leads to stunted growth in corn, with cobs not filled by kernels.
The adult worms are moth-like and lay their eggs in fields, which are often close to growing corn, Hagar said.
And while they did cause some damage here, it was much worse in western New York, he said.
“It wasn’t the disaster it could have been.”