Rain floods farm fields, worries growers

What a difference a year makes. The drought of 2012, which left many farmers with low feed supplies for their animals, has now given way to the floods of 2013.

flood corn field

A flooded corn field in Brattleboro, VT, August 29, 2011, days after Tropical Storm Irene. Photo: Putney pics, Creative Commons, some rights reserved

This quote in the Glens Falls Post Star reveals the fears facing many farmers this season, “A dry year will scare you to death; a wet year will starve you to death.”

Tom Borden heard the old farmers’ saying from his father. He tells the newspaper that last year’s dry weather meant expensive animal feed, so he started spring with little stored for his dairy cows. He was counting on a good growing season to replenish supplies. “I’ve never seen anything like this,” he said. “I have a lot of anxieties about what this is going to do to us. We’re on the verge of something fairly disastrous here.”

Corn planting was delayed this spring because of soggy fields, cool temperatures stunted some crops, which left the plants far from “knee high” as many farmers like to see their corn by the 4th of July.

The problems is affecting more than just corn – and more than just Saratoga and Essex Counties, NY, which have gotten the most attention for recent floods.

NCPR’s General Manager Ellen Rocco runs a farm with her husband Bill Knoble in DeKalb Junction, in St. Lawrence County. She said the big story for every farmer this summer is inability to get at hay, “Virtually all of the hay I’ve seen harvested is being chopped. It’s even been challenging to get round bales in, which generally don’t require as much dry curing time as (old-fashioned, like Bill and I do) square bales.”

The muddy, wet fields make it hard to run equipment, and are also bad for curing hay, Rocco said.

According to the Watertown Daily Times, the hay crop throughout the region is bountiful, but a lot of farmers can’t harvest it. And the longer it sits in the field, the lower the quality.

Paul Hetzler, an educator at Cornell Co-operative Extension tells the newspaper that plants in any ground that is not well drained have suffered.

“Roots can’t hold their breath for very long,” he said “Now, with all that rain, a lot of the nitrogen is going to get washed away.

Vegetable growers are also suffering. They're concerned about the possibility of late blight, which has ruined the tomato crop in previous years.

“I don’t want to be an alarmist about late blight, but these are perfect conditions for it,” Hertlzer said.

If there’s any bright spot to all this  – a bit more sunshine is predicted in the coming week. The National Weather Service in Burlington predicts some rain, not as much as we’ve been getting, though, and it should be mixed with sunshine and temperatures in the 80s.



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