Wet season dampens local harvest

ESCANABA — Delta County’s harvest season is wrapping up, and local farmers have reportedly had some difficulties growing crops this year.

“It was a much better season last year,” Michigan State University Extension Crop Production Educator Monica Jean said.

According to Jean, difficulties were due in large part to the rainy conditions seen in the area this spring and summer.

“We started out very wet during the planting season,” she said.

The most common types of farms in Delta County are potato farms, dry bean farms, and dairy farms (which also grow crops such as corn and hay). Jean said while all farms in the area were affected by this year’s weather, some were more heavily impacted by these conditions than others.

“Probably our dry bean growers and then our dairy (farmers) were most affected,” she said.

Jean said this was mostly because the suggested planting times for crops such as dry beans and corn coincided with the rainiest points of the year.

“When they were supposed to be planting, it was very wet,” she said.

Potato farmers were able to plant on time, but rainfall still had a significant effect on their crop yields in 2017.

“They may have gotten to plant when conditions were okay, but then they got drown-outs,” Jean said.

Hay farmers have had some large yields this year, but Jean said many of these farmers were unable to harvest their yields in a timely manner. This was due to the risk of getting their equipment stuck, along with the impact the harvesting process could have on future yields.

“If it’s really wet like that and you’re going to tear up the ground, it’s not worth it,” Jean said.

Rainy weather also prevented some farmers from properly maintaining their fields.

“It wouldn’t allow them to spray for weeds,” Jean said.

Despite this, Jean said 2017 was not a completely catastrophic year for most farmers in the area.

“They got yields — they still had fields that were productive,” she said.

The warm, sunny weather seen in Delta County earlier this fall had a positive effect on plant growth and field conditions. However, it complicated harvesting for local potato farmers.

Jean said she is hoping the area’s 2018 growing season is more successful and the winter of 2017-18 is a productive one.

“We actually need a good freeze,” she said. This is due to the fact that snowfall and freezing play an important role in water cycling and pest control.