For farmers, too much rain can be bad

Rain soaks the field near Fifer Orchards in Wyoming on Friday morning. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

Rain soaks the field near Fifer Orchards in Wyoming on Friday morning. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

CAMDEN — Nestled on a straw-like bed of dead vegetation Friday, Fifer Orchards pumpkins were taking the ongoing rain fairly well.

The falling precipitation wasn’t ideal for the pumpkins, but the ongoing harvest would continue nevertheless.

“This kind of rain is not good for pumpkins,” Fifer Orchards partner Curt Fifer said. “It will hurt the crop but won’t jeopardize it entirely.

“We will still have plenty of pumpkins, though a small percentage of them on the ground will rot.”

Mr. Fifer harkened back to two or three years ago when 10 inches fell, and didn’t expect the current deluge to approximate that.

“We plant them on a bed of rye … so they don’t lay on the soil,” he said.

With about 65 percent of the state’s corn crop already harvested, rainy conditions would delay operations but not destroy them, officials said.

“Farmers have really been working hard from the end of August until now (harvesting corn),” Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee said. “The good news is that a lot of corn is already in the bin.”

High winds, especially in the coastal area, might blow down corn stalks, but Mr. Kee said that would only slow the harvest, not kill it.

According to Mr. Kee, current corn yields have been solid, including 250 bushels per acre and above for irrigated crops, 160 to 200 bushels for dry land growth.

A flooded farm field north of Camden Friday.

A flooded farm field north of Camden Friday.

Regarding the nasty conditions — rain, wind and cold — Mr. Kee said farmers had prepared beforehand by putting “fuel in the heaters and feed in the bins” to protect the livestock.

“The poultry growers, dairy farmers and livestock producers are really tuned in to providing adequate shelter for their animals,” he said.

Delaware’s soybean harvest hasn’t commenced yet, and will be delayed.

“It will be a week before most farmers can get out on their land,” Mr. Kee said.

Small grain winter wheat and barley planting also will be pushed back, affected by the late reaping of corn and soybeans.

“It’s not a crisis for wheat and barley planting because it’s early, but the ground has a lot of drying out to do,” Mr. Kee said.

The state’s apple harvest is 60 percent to 75 percent complete, and Mr. Kee said that some fruit had been blown off the trees, especially in windy coastal areas,

University of Delaware Cooperative Kent County Extension Agent Phil Sylvester said the ideal time to plant small grain crops come in the second and third week of October.

First though, the corn must be picked and the soybeans collected.

“Farmers want to get the crop out as soon as it’s mature,” Mr. Sylvester said. “With soybeans that will be as soon as the moisture drops to an acceptable level.”

The variance of forecasts for the next few days can leave a farmer with an uncertain schedule on working the crops.

“This is the part of farming that can be somewhat frustrating, but it’s farming and it’s what the growers are accustomed to,” Mr. Sylvester said.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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