By Benjamin Phillips,
This spring’s constant rain events forced growers to make tough choices. With limited planting windows, each farm had to make a set of choices about what to plant, and on every farm different decisions were made. Nearly everyone cut back, abandoning a planting of one thing or another. That could have been one crop in one window (e.g., mid-season broccoli), or one entire crop type (e.g., all red beets). There are not any glaring region-wide planting gaps, but a wide range of crops are late as planting activities and field preparation competed for this spring’s limited time.
Some crop yields may end up being more impacted by this wet spring than others. Field-planted pepper plants that went in the ground stressed may not produce well. Pumpkins that were planted right to the edge of adequate maturity time may not yield within the handful of weekends to sell that product. I have seen small and stressed hard squash plants too, which may result in earlier fruits, smaller fruits and fewer fruits.
In July, sweet corn experienced heavier than normal caterpillar pressure from the lack of surrounding field corn acreage to soak up some of the moths looking for egglaying sites. There were up to 90% infested ears in some plantings, which could be tough to market. Some growers are looking at a potential three-week gap in high-yielding sweet corn sales because of corn earworm infestations. Other vegetables could also be impacted by corn earworm caterpillars as alternative hosts such as field corn plantings catch up.
Potato growers may face tough vine-kill and harvest decisions due to delayed plantings. Their choices will be to kill vines and harvest around when they normally would (relative to other years) with potentially lower yields, or to kill vines and harvest later (relative to planting date this year) to try and maximizing yield. By waiting too long, grower will run the risk of low temperature bruising, freeze damage and the cost of sorting more thoroughly for tuber quality.
At this point, diseases have not been as serious in a broad statewide sense as they have been in other years. However, a complex of soil diseases was probably also at play with some early plantings that had wet feet. What most crops have in common is a compromised root system from a high water table this spring and poor soil conditions at planting. This could result in low and inconsistent yields from compaction and more sensitivity to heat, weed control and drought stress during the main season unless irrigation is provided in a timely fashion. In addition, there could be longer-term impacts from soil compaction.