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Crops drenched by late rainfall
June 23, 2005 By HOLLY OWENS
Cold and wet weather that has lingered through spring into early summer is affecting growers in the Basin.
"I saw potatoes and onions being planted later than I've ever seen them planted," said Marshall Staunton, a Tulelake area onion and potato grower last week.
Potato and grain growers were still putting in their crops as of last week, Staunton said.
"We had ours in the fourth of June," he said.
Wet weather has not only delayed planting, but has affected the soil quality, which in turn affects crop growth.
"The soil is real compacted and hard. I'd be really surprised if our yields are average or above average," Staunton said. "I would be really, really surprised and pleased if we had an average yield. Pretty much going to be a miracle to pull that off. As poor a ground condition as I've ever seen."
Staunton has noted that onion growth is weaker than normal, too.
"Stands should be 1 3/4 inches and about 24 onions per bed foot, and I'm finding less than that and sometimes a lot less than that," he said.
Along with slow growing crops, Basin farmers are facing killing frosts and potential for diseased crops due to the cool, damp weather.
"It's been colder than average, and hopefully it will warm up from here on out," Staunton said. "If humidity stays high you're going to worry a lot about late blight in potatoes, powdery mildew in onions."
Cool, wet conditions are also affecting grain growers, creating the potential for cereal diseases such as barley and wheat stripe rust.
"The expectation is if humid weather continues they could develop in the next two weeks," said Rodney Todd, cereal crops agent at the Oregon State University Extension Service. "Growers are reporting, counter-intuitively, stress in the crops. This normally would produce wonderful crops, but they're finding some problems we haven't been able to identify yet."
But for potato growers, a poor crop could be good news. Poor planting and growing conditions have affected potato growers nationwide, Staunton said, meaning market prices could climb without a glut of potatoes from this year's crops.
"Could be a blessing for potato guys who struggled with their planting in New Brunswick and Maine. It affected Idaho and the weather patterns affected the East Coast. It looks like nationwide we could have a short on potato crops," Staunton said. "It could a blessing, even for potato guys."
"If those potatoes are worth good money, then we'll take it. The nation could have a very short potato crop, and if that happens we'll be right with the cattle guys saying, 'That rain was great.' "
Page Updated: Thursday May 07, 2009 09:14 AM Pacific
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