First cold, now rain picking on growers

The wet and cool weather this growing season is affecting peaches, apples, hay and possibly corn.

A mold, fueled by the moisture, is attacking fruit orchards. Hay, laden with water, is having to dry longer and is therefore reducing the number of cuttings. The stormy weather could affect sweet corn crops by dropping hail or affecting growth in this cooler-than-normal climate.

“It is just a nightmare this year,” said Terry Sweet, co-owner of K Bar T Farms. “This is the worst June I have seen in 30 years.”

Sweet said the wet weather is costing him and his brother, Joe Sweet, thousands of dollars.

Terry Sweet said the farm lost a $25,000 contract this week because they are still drying out hay from the last cutting. Even when it does dry, said Joe Sweet, the hay is not fetching top dollar.

“It is definitely turning premium horse hay into cow hay, which is a major price reduction, and if it is left long enough out there in the fields, it turns black,” Joe Sweet said. “It is a major ordeal.”

The Sweets said their business will probably fall by 25 percent this year because of the weather. In a normal year they do four cuttings of alfalfa and three on grass. This year they anticipate losing at least one cutting and maybe two.

Orchards also are showing the effects of the cool, damp weather.

“What we are seeing over here from the rain is fungal diseases,” said Bob Hammon, area extension agent for the CSU Area Extension.

Peach and apple trees are showing signs of a fungus called Coryneum blight, which spots the fruit and puts holes in the leaves of trees if left untreated.

“In a dry year, we don’t have to spray for it,” Hammon said.

The weather has been affecting Brad Brophy’s orchard all season.

“I lost 90 percent of my cherry crop this year from the freeze we had in April,” said Brophy, who owns B2 Orchards and Tree Farm, in Palisade.

The orchard has 3.6 acres with about 700 peach trees and another one-third of an acre with 18 cherry trees, he said. He has had to spray fungicide to keep his orchard healthy, but he does not expect to lose any of his peach crop or increase prices for consumers.

“With the moisture we are getting, it sure is causing us problems,” Brophy said. “If a person doesn’t stay on top of it, it sure could affect ya.”

The greatest concern for sweet-corn growers could be the harvest times. Farmers usually stagger the planting of fields so the harvest can be spread out over time. The cool weather could have all the fields coming to maturity at the same time, possibly leaving some farmers with too much crop and too little labor to harvest.

“So we are probably going to lose some fields,” Hammon said.

John Harold, owner of Tuxedo Corn, which is sold under the name Olathe Sweet Sweet Corn, said he had concerns earlier this year, but with harvest a couple weeks away he’s confident a good crop of corn will soon be at market.

This year, he will be using three crews of laborers as opposed to the two crews he had last year.

“The weather has been cooler, but the thing that has allowed us to harvest on time is that even though the days have been cooler we haven’t had the cool nights,” Harold said.

Harold said the only thing that could stop a successful harvest, which runs from July 15 to Sept. 10, would be hail.


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