Rainy weather takes toll on crops


By Michael Rich

For The Gazette

Robert Leeds of Leeds Farm shows some discoloration from the wet weather.
http://aimmedianetwork.com/wp-content/uploads/sites/40/2015/07/web1_SAM_0292.jpgRobert Leeds of Leeds Farm shows some discoloration from the wet weather.

The effects of the heavy rainfall over the better part of the last month or so can be seen simply by driving by Delaware-area farms.

The cornfields look like water that’s just been disturbed by a child sticking its foot in over the edge of a dock.

Waves are normal on the Olentangy and all other bodies of water, but cornfield bushels should all look the same.

But the cornfields aren’t the biggest problem, according to Ostrander farmer Robert Leeds of Leeds Farms.

“A lot of people are talking about corn and soybean problems, but the people that are really taking it on the chin are the wheat producers,” he said. “Because we should be harvesting wheat now and harvesting straw and this rain is making it difficult. The quality of the wheat – we’ve had some sprouting issues. It’s going to hurt test weight. We’re going to have some vomitoxin issues.”

The soggy weather has wiped out what was a tremendous spring planting season.

“It’s hurt it bad,” said Zachary Taylor of Taylor Farms in Ostrander. “We came out of a pretty nice spring – things went well in planting season – conditions were right. Financially it hurts, but you take it more in pride than you do anything. Especially when we had a planting season like we did – things went off without a hitch.”

“This year, it was wet early – I’m talking March and April – and then it dried up and we got a great start on the crop,” Leeds said. “That’s kind of what makes you feel bad is that we got off to such a great start and then towards the end of May and definitely in June, we started to get rain and we started to get wet and the crop started to deteriorate. That’s the big part, is that we looked so good early and then we started to get all of this rain. So now we’re having problems.”

The amount of water has hurt the plants’ ability to grow. The water is suffocating the plants and leading to poor root development.

“You see the yellow stuff out in the beans – that’s where water’s been present and it’s causing poor root development, (and) it’s causing poor soil, oxygen exchanges,” Taylor said. “Along with water and nutrients, sunlight and heat, the crop also needs oxygen. The same with corn, wheat, anything – the crop needs oxygen. So, if it rains like that, it depletes the oxygen and all the air out of the soil. So it’s basically suffocating it.”

“Traditionally, what you’d like, is when you plant for it to be a little bit dry and that way it shoots out the roots and that way you get some decent moisture all the way through growing season,” Leeds said. “But what happens in something like this, is you develop that small root system or shallow root system and then if it turns dry, you’re going to have more moisture stress than a normal year.”

Leeds’ primary crop is pumpkins and he said that his crop isn’t in as a bad of shape as other farmers in the area. But that’s predicated on a drier summer.

“Pumpkins and soybeans share a lot of the same diseases,” Leeds said. “So the pumpkins aren’t looking real good right now but, if it dries up, we’ll be fine. We’ll have to replant here and there, but overall it’ll come around because what’s the odds of it raining like this for the rest of the summer?”

Leeds said that the berry farmers are affected, too, and they won’t be able to recover from the crops they’ve already lost this summer.

“I know the pick-your-own raspberries and strawberries – it really had a harder time this year because we’ve had so much rain,” he said. “So they had quite a bit of loss. Those types of things – they’re already said-and-done (for the season). The pick-your-own raspberries are in now, the strawberries went out (a couple of weeks ago). So you’re not going to make up those sales – I don’t care how great the rest of the summer is.”

Farmers like Leeds and Taylor invest money every year on their crops and they have insurance just in case the weather doesn’t cooperate. But the problem is that the insurance is there to cover natural disasters that take out a whole crop.

What farmers are facing is a crop that may be able to yield enough to make back money spent, but profit might wash away.

“So basically you’ve washed all that investment down the drain – it’s gone,” Taylor said. “Whether it’s fertilizer, chemicals, seed, diesel fuel, in a sense that you’ve run the machines – you’ve invested that time and that energy and it’s gone. It’s just bad.

“It’s worse than going to the craps table because if you lay all this money out on the table and Mother Nature doesn’t want to work with you, then you’re left holding the bag,” Taylor said.

Farmers said they will have to wait until the winter to be able to put a financial value on the lost crop this year.

Michael Rich can be found on Twitter @mrichdelgazette. Email: [email protected].

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