AMY HEGGEN, Contributing Writer
PLATTSBURGH — The rainy weather has left farmers concerned about their crops this season, and many are catching up on their harvest with the recent sunny weather.
Tony LaPierre, president of the Clinton County Farm Bureau and owner of Rusty Creek Farm in Chazy, has delayed harvesting his hay for about a month.
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“It (the rain) has delayed a lot of normal cropping routines,” LaPierre said.
Although planting corn typically begins at the end of May, some seed never went in the ground.
“A lot of people got their corn in, but there are still a lot of unplanted acres. Probably 20 to 25 percent of the acreage in the county is unplanted,” LaPierre said.
Some corn that was planted didn’t fare well in the wet weather, especially seeds that were planted in low-elevation areas.
“Corn that was planted there has drowned. The seedlings can’t survive more than 48 hours under water,” LaPierre said.
But corn isn’t the only problem. Local farmers have struggled to harvest hay.
Hay fields need about four days in a row of sun before they can be harvested, LaPierre explained.
“If you have excess moisture, you’re not able to put up a good quality bale,” he said.
A wet bale can become moldy, which is a hazard to livestock. If the moisture level is too high, hay can combust, which is a hazard to farm structures.
“Any poor quality feed is poor for the health of the animal. You can’t feed that kind of feed to livestock and expect them to do well,” LaPierre said.
Often, cows will pick through moldy hay or refuse to eat it, he said.
Typically, farmers begin harvesting their hay in late May or early June.
“Here it is, in July, and very small amounts of hay have been put up,” LaPierre said. “A lot of the crop has gone by or is mature in the field.”
The quality of the hay goes down the longer that it stays in the field, he said. Waiting to harvest the hay also reduces chances of harvesting a second or third crop.
Now that the sunny weather has dried the fields, farmers are putting in long hours.
“We’re working overtime to try and catch up, if that’s even possible,” LaPierre said.
All of the delay puts a strain on labor and time management, he said.
“You’re at the mercy of Mother Nature,” LaPierre said. “But that’s the nature of the business.”
Sam Trombley, owner of Win Place and Show Farm on Hayford Road in Champlain, hasn’t yet harvested his hay field either.
“Everybody’s in the same boat,” he said.
Although his horse farm has a hay field, he also purchases hay from local farmers.
“There’s a lot of hay out there if we get the weather to get it,” Trombley said.
He said the prices of hay haven’t gone up, and the quality won’t be nearly as good as a field harvested on time. The timothy, a plant that supplies horses with nutrients, has already flowered in his field.
Trombley also doesn’t want to tear up the field using heavy equipment in the mud.
“Every time you tear something up, it costs money to fix it,” he said.
Last year at this time, he had already finished haying.
Trombley has to be conscious of the condition of the hay he feeds his horses, as they are sensitive to dusty or moldy hay. The dust from mold spores can cause respiratory problems and other issues in horses.
“Their body can’t absorb it and digest it like a cow can,” Trombley said.
Meanwhile, students who take riding lessons at Win Place and Show farm are fortunate to have an indoor ring to ride in, as the outside ring has been muddy.
Riding instructor Carolyn Reid brought the jumps outside for the riders for the first time Sunday.
Applejacks Orchard on Brand Hollow Road in Peru has also felt the effects of the rain. Jim Murray, who owns the farm, grows 2 acres of pumpkins and 4 acres of apples.
He said the pumpkins have been hit the hardest.
“It began raining right when we put them in the ground,” Murray said. “We went through about a six-week period with extremely wet soils, and they didn’t grow.”
The pumpkins are about half the size they usually are this time of year.
“I don’t know if we can ever make up for the lost six weeks,” he said.
In addition to the stunted growth, about 35 percent never grew at all, he said.
“I don’t know if the seeds rotted or if they sprouted and the roots became water-logged,” Murray said.
He said the pumpkins won’t be as plentiful as they usually are and that will affect business. Murray anticipates running out of pumpkins, and may look for wholesale sources to purchase from.
“We’re a you-pick place so people come here for entertainment,” Murray said.
Though it’s still too early to tell, he said there’s a chance he’ll have enough pumpkins, but the likelihood is dwindling.
As for the apple trees, Murray has had some issue with apple scab, a fungal disease common with a lot of rain. Any attempt at fungicide protection has been washed off by rain.
Despite the constant battle he thinks the apple crop will be great this year, and new apple trees he recently planted have appreciated the wet weather.