Summer here after a very wet spring
Ninth rainiest May slowed area farmers
CAPITAL REGION It’s probably no surprise to the residents of Middleburgh, who watched their Main Street become a river a week ago, but this spring was wetter that usual.
Now farmers across the region are hoping Friday’s summer solstice will mark the end of heavy spring rains as well as the official beginning of summer.
“We need consecutive days of dry weather,” said state Farm Bureau spokesman Steve Ammerman, “just so the ground gets hard enough to bring a tractor into the field.”
He said a wet spring left the dirt waterlogged, especially in the Schoharie Valley.
“I have a colleague with a dairy farm down there,” he said. “She said the ground is just mud. The corn is getting yellow.”
Evan Heller, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Albany, described the rainfall in more mathematical terms.
“May was the ninth wettest May on record,” he said. “The last May to make the top 10 was back in 1984.”
The Weather Service doesn’t measure trends by calendar seasons (meterological spring is March, April and May, not March 20 to June 21), so he had to talk months.
In May alone, he said, there were four separate days with more than an inch of rainfall, and the total exceeded the average by roughly 3 inches.
“We think June will probably make the top 10 as well,” he said.
So far, this month is also running 3 inches above average, “and there are 10 days left and rain is in the forecast, so it’s definitely doable.”
He was careful to say that he and the National Weather Service’s Albany team just keep track of record-setting months. They’re not actively hoping rain clouds will open and propel this particular June into weather history books.
“I’d rather see everything level out,” he said — a sentiment echoed by Ammerman.
The timing and quantity of rain determines in large part a crop’s success. At the start of this growing season, farmers had high hopes.
It wasn’t too warm or wet. They thought it marked a return to normal after last year’s troublesome early spring.
“It started off well,” Ammerman said, “then it rained.”
Heller said April was actually about an inch below normal. The ground was solid so farmers planted a bit early.
Given the extra time in the ground, Ammerman said root systems were slightly better equipped to handle a drowning.
Aside from the yellowing corn, he said, “Most other things are doing OK.”
Now the main problem is getting out into the fields for harvest. Hay fields across the state are ripe for a second cutting but tractor tires sink in the saturated earth.
Even if farmers could cut the hay, it’s too wet to bale.
Ammerman was specifically worried for the strawberry crop. It’s a labor-intensive harvest, requiring lots of workers who’d rather not slide around in a muddy field.
“The rain didn’t hurt the crop,” he said, but “staying on the plant eventually will.”
But his worries may be unfounded.
“The weather is beautiful here,” said Kelly Fancherf, of Bohringer’s Fruit Farm.
Bohringer’s has 60 acres of berries in Middleburgh, much of which she said is perfectly ripe.
A staff member at The Carrot Barn in Schoharie said their strawberries among other things are growing well, though they all hope for a drier days to come.
Heller would not would not offer a prediction for the whole summer.