Traverse City Record-Eagle

July 8, 2013

Farmers optimistic about crops

BY JANICE BENSON Special to the Record-Eagle BY GLENN PUIT
Traverse City Record-Eagle

---- — TRAVERSE CITY — It’s been a relatively dry growing season so far, and northwest Michigan farmers are looking to the sky for more precipitation.

“It would be real nice if we got some rain,” said Dan Hall of Hall Farms on North Long Lake Road in Grand Traverse County. “It has rained all around us, and I’ve talked to people (in other states) who said they’d had lots rain. They were just drowning in it and I said, ‘We’d sure like to have some of it.'”

Hall irrigates his corn fields but also grows oats, rye, field corn and alfalfa. The first cut of hay looked good, he said, but the fields definitely need more water.

Regarding the irrigated corn, he said “if we got rain, I don’t have such a high Consumers bill.”

Statistics from the National Weather Service show the Traverse City area is below average on rainfall. Traverse City received 4.08 inches of rain for the months of May, June and July. The average for the same time frame is 6.12 inches. National Weather Service Meteorologist Tim Locker said there's some chance of rain Sunday night into today, and more could come by mid-week.

This year's growing season began with a chill, followed by a recent stretch of dry, humid weather. Local farmers said they're thus far optimistic about this year's crops.

“We had a very good asparagus season,” said Alan Grossnickle of Grossnickle Farms of Kaleva. "Except for the Mother’s Day weekend snow, which took the first two pickings, things rebounded well and it turned out to be a good year. Even as cool as the spring was, our crops are catching up nicely, now that the weather has warmed up.”

Grossnickle also grows strawberries, raspberries, pickles, sweet corn, pumpkins, field corn, soybeans, and a wide variety of vegetables. He expects his sweet corn to be ready around July 25, noting the estimate depends on the weather.

James DeDecker, Agricultural Educator with MSU Extension, said a cool, wet spring made planting “stop and go for a while.”

“As a result, there’s a lot of variability in early crop development this year,” he said.

DeDecker said soybean crops look pretty good, as do dry beans and potatoes.

“Most of these crops are just getting established and there are few issues thus far,” he said. “We thought that the wet weather would encourage fungal diseases in the wheat crop this year, but symptoms really haven’t progressed, so yields should be good.”

Dean Johnson of Johnson Farms on the Old Mission Peninsula said he’s looking to start shaking his first crop of the season, the light sweet brine cherries, by mid-week. His black sweet canners and tart cherries will follow later in the month.

“So far, the early brine cherry crop is lighter than anticipated, due to all of the rain during the pollination period, but the black sweets are looking to be a fairly heavy crop and the market looks good,” Johnson said. “Tart cherries are also looking to be a pretty good crop — a whole lot better than last year — and there looks to be a market for everything.”

Cherry processors at the recent Cherry Industry Administrative Board meeting in Grand Rapids estimated the statewide tart cherry crop to be around 208.5 million pounds, with 125 million in northwest Michigan alone. Compared with the five-year average of 88.3 million pounds for northwest Michigan, it looks to be a pretty good crop.

As for apples and grapes, Johnson expects a big crop of apples, as are growers throughout the state, and the market looks very promising.

“And with the recent warm weather, grape development is progressing quickly," Johnson said. "The more sunlight and heat we get in the coming weeks, the better. We harvested a pretty good crop last year, and I think we will this year, too.”