Growers have faced some serious issues in 2011-from food safety legislation and recalls to higher fuel prices and a down economy-but the one constant challenge growers face every year, to one degree or another, is the weather and its whims.
Flooding, drought, hail, hurricanes, frost, lightning, snow, wind. you can’t control them, you can rarely predict them accurately and your only recourse is to assume the worst, hope for the best and plan for anything.
This year, though, seems like a particularly hard year around the country for growers. Feast or famine, it’s the overabundance of rain in many areas that’s wreaking havoc on crops. Spring flooding across the Midwest was bad enough, but continued rains have caused even more damage across the country.
Some Wisconsin operations are reporting complete losses of blueberry crops because of rain and ground saturation, including one grower, Debbie Gustafson of Nelson’s Blueberry Farm in Westboro, Wis., saying, “I’ve seen the berries pop like popcorn.”
In Oregon’s Willamette Valley, growers saw a round of heavy rain showers destroy their cherry crop. One farmer told a local news broadcast that his Lambert cherries “absorbed so much water with the warm temperatures and large amount of rain that they burst.”
Due to a cool, damp spring and early summer temperatures, Montana cherries are ripening later. However, in the case of Montana growers, timing is everything, and most producers shoot for their fruit to hit the market after the Washington cherries to benefit from higher prices, so there is an upside to the weather.
Cool, wet spring weather in parts of California has also delayed the melon harvest in the state.
What’s the takeaway from all these reports?
Well, for one thing, it’s not really news to growers that weather makes their jobs a challenge. You spend most days checking the forecasts and planning accordingly. You can’t control it, you can only respond to it, and every year brings a new round of problems or rewards from the skies.
Another angle is that successful operations are ready for all but the most extreme weather issues, whether it be with irrigation and drainage, frost warning/prevention systems, hail netting or other necessary equipment and supplies. Part of doing business is risk management and disaster prevention, to the degree it’s possible, and where weather’s concerned, there are at least tools available to mitigate most weather issues.
So, what’s your weather like this year-has it been good, bad or indifferent for your crops? We’d love to hear from you, so stop over and take our monthly poll:
Bob M. Montgomery Editor bmontgomery@MooseRiverMedia.com