Crops are soaking up the summer heat
FINGER LAKES—While people sweltered miserably in last week’s heat-wave, most garden and commercial crops basked gratefully in all that sun.
However, continued prolonged heat might be a different story. Jud Reid, Yates County-based vegetable specialist with Cornell Cooperative Extension, says, “We had sufficient moisture until about two weeks ago, but most of central Yates County is starting to get quite dry. Things dried out real quick.”
Although recent rains helped, it remains to be seen whether some garden and commercial vegetable crops suffered the drought stress that shows up as “blossom end rot,” a sunken, decayed area affecting the bottom of tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.
Reid says the size and maturity of small berry crops can be affected by drought, but perennial deep-rooted fruit crops—tree fruits and grapes—come through this weather better.
“Very wet one minute and very dry the next,” says Dorothy Bragg of Savona, a farmer who formerly operated a farm stand. “We’ve had trouble getting in our hay, it’s been hard for everyone. But the corn crop is beautiful, it looks really good. And my vegetables are doing quite well though I’m a little worried about the tomatoes. But so far it’s not been a bad year. A little better than last year.”
“Overall it’s been a good season for most things,” says Brett Chedzoy, Senior Resource Educator in Agriculture and Natural Resources for Cornell Cooperative Extension in Schuyler County. “I haven’t heard anything good nor bad from local growers. Getting more rainfall has caused a few issues with row crops. Some area dairy farmers lost corn to micro-bursts blowing corn down, but we’ve had no issues with excessive rainfall. Heat is generally good for most crops.” On his own farm, he says the heat and some opportune rains have helped maintain good pastures.
But those same rains in June and early July were not pleasing for some small fruit growers. “For cherry growers, the rain came at a perfect bad time and caused some splitting and mold issues,” Chedzoy says.
Some of that rain also put an early end to the strawberry season, says Val Carocci, co-owner of Church Street Produce in Burdett. “On June 24, we got three inches of rain and got hit by hail three times! We’re still dealing with that damage,” she says. “In June I thought I never wanted to see rain again, but we could use it now.”
But the rain that washed out strawberry pickers was a boon to their blueberries. “They’re beautiful,” she says.
Even when water can be regulated with irrigation or hydroponically, as Kathryn Cooley, co-owner of Seneca Breeze Berries does in Penn Yan, “Strawberries slow down in intense heat. Berries are still coming, but not as quickly as when it was cooler, in June,” Cooley says. “In the Northeast, we haven’t had that problem until the last few years.” She adds they’re looking at other strawberry varieties that can produce more happily in hot weather.
Arnold Martin, on the board of directors of the Finger Lakes Produce Auction, has a more sweeping perspective on the weather’s effect on crops. “We had a good start this spring, but then very wet weather had an effect,” he says. The heat is helping counteract that. Strawberries were a really short season because of all the rain, but blueberries are coming in and doing fine. There are fewer raspberries due to the wet weather. As far as I know, tree fruits are looking very good.”
Martin, a grape-grower, adds cautiously, “The grapes are looking really well.”