Outlook favorable for Kent County crops

 

A corn field along Savannah Road near Dover shows the growth so far this summer. If rain remains steady and temperatures don’t rise too high, a good corn crop is forecast for this year in Kent County. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

A corn field along Savannah Road near Dover shows the growth so far this summer. If rain remains steady and temperatures don’t rise too high, a good corn crop is forecast for this year in Kent County. (Delaware State News/Dave Chambers)

DOVER — When farming, Mother Nature both giveth and taketh away.

Dover farmer Richard Papen said the market demand for locally grown green beans currently is “really strong” after a dry stretch in the Carolinas lessened their regional availability.

With 300 acres of green beans in, Mr. Papen said the timing of the ongoing harvest southwest of Dover is good. There’s one more week to gather the vegetable from the fields, with three weeks already taken.

“The farming business is all about supply and demand,” Mr. Papen said on Tuesday. “If one area is struggling to grow due to the weather then another area will benefit from that.”

With cautious optimism, University of Delaware Extension Agent Phillip Sylvester casts a wary eye regarding weather on the horizon.

“While crops in general are in pretty good shape we still have a long way to go,” Mr. Sylvester said.

“Weather patterns can change quickly in Delaware.”

Standing outside on a mild late morning Friday, Delaware Secretary of Agriculture Ed Kee said, “For the most part, at this point of the year the (sweet corn) is as promising as any I’ve ever seen up and down the state.”

There’s still a lot of growing season left, and on Friday Secretary Kee hoped for another couple decent rains this month, along with temperatures staying below 90 degrees.

“Every farmer likes to see the conditions like this,” he said. “The rains were well-timed in the spring and temperatures stayed mild.”

Kent County sweet corn is currently in a good state, Mr. Papen said, earning $12 for 48 ears sold. Again, Delaware is benefiting from harvests that just concluded in Georgia and yet to start in Pennsylvania and New York due to the climate and growing season.

Secretary Kee said corn prices that trended downward for 12 to 18 months have inched up recently, but “prices can be volatile.”

A 1,200-acre sweet corn harvest began this week and will continue until mid-September, Mr. Papen said.

While yields won’t be determined until fall harvest are in, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s forecast for the year for Delaware is for 170,000 acres of corn and 180,000 acres of soybeans.

On July 5, the most recent crop progress report from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service showed that 39 percent of corn is silking, compared to 40 percent at this time last year and 37 percent for the last five-year average.

Five weeks of cabbage cutting on 200 acres at Papen Farms is nearly complete, and prices are “a little down” according to Mr. Papen.

While some heavy rains in June limited available planting time for fall crops, “we sure haven’t had to irrigate and that’s a huge savings,” Mr. Papen said. There may be some upcoming skips in bringing sweet corn to market, however.

“On the whole the sweet corn is pretty decent, though it’s been tough to plant at times due to recent showers,” Mr. Papen said.

“It’s looking good, we are seeing some nice ears.”

Recently frequent thunderstorms delayed harvesting mature winter wheat that began approximately June 20, Mr. Sylvester said. When the crop finally held a dry grain, the rain moistened it again and slowed the process. Also, planting double crop soybeans had to wait for completing the wheat harvest.

“It’s not unreasonable for the wheat harvest to be finished in a typical amount of time, but the thunderstorms definitely did not help it,” Mr. Sylvester said.

Watermelon picking concentrated in southern Delaware is about to begin, with potatoes two to three weeks away, Secretary Kee said.

Reach staff writer Craig Anderson at canderson@newszap.com

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