Saturday, July 6, 2013

Constant Rainfall Killing, Damaging Area Crops

June 28 flood warning map from the National Weather Service
Farmers in Central New York are hoping the weather gods try to find some middle ground for the rest of the growing season.

Last year at this time, farmers were irrigating their fields because rain just wouldn't fall. This year, crops are being drowned or subjected to the possibility of disease due to too much rain.

"It's a complete flip-flop from last year," said vegetable and fruit grower Tony Emmi, of Lysander. "There is no happy medium in this weather."

Mike Candella Jr., of Candella Farms in Marcy, Oneida County, agrees. He has lost 10 acres of sweet corn that drowned beneath about six feet of water. His acreage is between the Mohawk River and the Barge Canal and much of the rain in the Uitca-Rome area has emptied into the two bodies of water and then flooded his land.

"I've had about enough of this," Candella said. "Last year, we were irrigating like crazy. When will we have a normal year?"

The Northeast Regional Climate Center at Cornell University states the average rainfall for Central New York in June is 3.56 inches. This year, the area saw about 6.8 inches -- making June 2013 the wettest June in more than 13 years.

Last year, farmers suffered through the 12th driest year on record, with rainfall totals for the first six months of 2012 coming in 3 1/2 inches below normal. June 2012 was the fifth consecutive month Central New York had below-normal precipitation, according to National Weather Service statistics.

Jason Turek, of the 4,000-acre Turek Farms in King Ferry, Cayuga County, said the weather "has reversed 180 degrees from last year." His thousands of acres of vegetables and 2,000 acres of sweet corn suffered from severe drought last year as "we had less than a half an inch of rain" in June.

"This year, we've had 10 inches of rain since the first of June," Turek said.

His biggest problem with the rain is he will have less produce to sell this year because the rain kept him out of the fields and he couldn't finish his planting. A few hundred acres will remain unplanted.

He also said "a lot of the green beans and squash have died as they sit in super saturated soil." The Tureks grow sweet corn, cabbage, winter and summer squash, green beans and pumpkins.

Candella lost a good amount of berries from the flooding, while Emmi said his big problems are an overabundance of weeds and fighting fungus diseases on the wet crops.

And while area residents look forward to that first local sweet corn and other veggies, don't expect crops to come in the same time as last year. Emmi said the rain has slowed the growth of many crops and "everything is about a week behind." He grows peppers, sweet corn, tomatoes, cucumbers, winter and summer squash and cabbage.


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