With drought conditions continuing in the Northeast, growers are remaining upbeat despite the challenges of the growing conditions.
“The crops begin to get stressed with all the heat and everything. Eventually it could lead to early ripening,” John Lyman, Executive Vice President of Lyman Orchards in Middlefield, CT, tells WTHN-TV in New Haven, CT.
In the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, 99% of Connecticut is in a moderate drought. Because of this drought, Lyman suspects fruit will be ripe a week earlier, thanks to the warm temperatures. However, the season should still span into November, as typically expected. And there is a bright spot with the heat, as Tim Burt, director of marketing for Lyman Orchards tells WTHN-TV.
“[The fruit] will be really sweet this year,” Burt says. “It may be a little bit smaller sized but the tradeoff is it’s much better tasting fruit.”
Severe Drought Continues In New York
Nearly 30% of New York is in a severe drought according to the latest U.S. Drought Monitor, with the hardest hit area in Western New York. Recently, Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY), has called upon the USDA to begin the process of issuing a disaster declaration. More than 90% of the state is abnormally dry, according to the Drought Monitor. The hardest hit, Schumer says are 22 counties in the Southern Tier, Rochester-Finger Lakes region, Central New York and Western New York.
“I have seen in my travels around the state and heard from many growers that many fields are already parched from this summer’s drought – so the time is ripe for USDA to begin preparing for a disaster declaration for our New York farmers,” Schumer said.
Finger Lakes grape growers see the lack of water as a good thing, especially in red wines, where small berry size brings a higher skin-to-juice ratio as well as higher color and flavor compounds.
“For the most part we’re OK,” said David Stamp, vineyard manager at Lakewood Vineyards in Watkins Glen, NY, tells the Rochester Democrat & Chronicle. “Berry size is going to be smaller, which is not always a bad thing.”
Although fruit crops are faring better, vegetable crops are hit hard with the drought, Steve Ammerman, public affairs manager for the New York Farm Bureau tells the Canandaigua Daily Messenger.
“A number of farmers are saying this is the worst drought they’ve seen in their lifetime,” Ammerman says. “If we get rain, it would be would be welcome,” he said, but it might be too late to make a difference for some crops such as corn.”
Ammerman says yields may be down 50% to 70% for corn and row crops.
“Corn is short, ears are stunted — tips of the ears will be shrunken kernels,” George Mueller of Willow Bend Farm in Manchester tells the Daily Messenger.
Mark Nicholson of Red Jacket Orchards in Geneva, NY, tells the Daily Messenger the size of some apple varieties may be smaller, but also sweet and flavorful, much like his cherry crop this year thanks to the sun’s boosting of the brix.
“Everybody was commenting on the flavor of the cherries,” he said.
Drought Continues In Massachusetts
Growers in Massachusetts says that the early ripening of their apple varieties may help bridge the gap in their production where peaches typically would be. More than 61% of the state is in a severe drought, and more than 91% of the state is in a moderate drought. Thanks to a cold snap in February, peaches are absent from this year’s harvest.
“We were nervous because we knew we didn’t have peaches, so we wanted to make sure we had a good apple crop,” Ben Clark of Clarkdale Fruit Farm in Deerfield, MA, tells The Greenfield Recorder. “Since we left some trees heavy with fruit, they’re going to be a little smaller size. It’s a good crop, a healthy crop.”
David Shearer of Pine Hill Orchards in Colrain, MA, tells The Recorder his ‘Paula Red’ and ‘Ginger Gold’ varieties are ripening a week early.
Tim Smith of Apex Orchards in Shelburne, MA, tells The Recorder he’s picking early apple varieties now.
“Things are sizing up well now that we’ve gotten some rain. Right now, it’s all looking pretty good,” he says.