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Volunteers from Michigan Works Work First Program plant garden crops at the Bay County Fairgrounds this spring, delayed by wet weather.

Crops Running 7-10 Days Behind Because of Cool, Damp Summer

September 7, 2009       Leave a Comment
By: Dave Rogers

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The cold, wet summer weather has dampened the spirits, and yields, of local fruit and vegetable growers in the central and east Michigan area.

A cool, wet spring delayed planting and crop progress across most U.S. spring and summer vegetable-producing areas, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Vegetable and Melons Outlook Report.

Average temperatures in July in northern Michigan have been 5 to 8 degrees below normal, said forecaster Jim Keysor of the National Weather Service office in Gaylord.

The explanation: The high-altitude jet stream has been south of its normal position. It has enabled cool, dry Canadian air to command the skies east of the Mississippi while blocking warm, moist air flows from the Gulf of Mexico.

Agricultural effects have been mixed, with slowly ripening crops a problem for some but not others.

Crops in Michigan are running 7-10 days behind, but sugar beets are on schedule and yields are expected to be near last year, according to local growers who will soon begin trucking to the Michigan Sugar Company in Bay City.

One regional grower reported: "A major change of the jet stream pattern brought above normal temperatures and heavy, widespread rainfall to much of the state during mid-August. That eastern ridging pattern was replaced by a trough once again during the last few days, bringing relatively cool, Canadian-origin air into the Great Lakes region."

The USDA reported downy mildew continued in some pickle and cucumber fields. Late blight continued to be a problem for tomato growers. Harvesting of peppers, eggplant, cabbage, lettuce, radishes, zucchini, and yellow squash continued with little problems.

Cherries are running one to two weeks behind schedule in northern Michigan, where nighttime temperatures have dipped into the upper 30s. The cold has kept insects at bay, but the longer the fruit is on the trees, the more vulnerable it becomes to storms, disease and other threats.

"We have an excellent cherry crop but it's come along slowly," said Rick Sayler, a grower near Traverse City.

Wendell Titus, owner of Spring Hill Farm and Vineyard, says he's lost about 50 percent of his grape crop this year thanks to this summer's weather.

Because of the moisture; Mold, mildew and bunch rot have damaged many of his grapes.

Wendell says he's invested a lot of time and money into his crop and to see the damage is very disappointing.

However, Wendell says he's going to stay positive and says sometimes a bad harvest year can produce even better wine.

A typical northern Michigan area July features average high temperatures of about 80 degrees, according to National Weather Service 40-year averages. But this year's July average high reached just 74.2 degrees, said Scott Rozanski, a weather service meteorologist in Gaylord.

The pattern continued in August, when the 40-year average high temperature fell about four degrees below the normal 78.5-degree mark. ###

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Dave Rogers

Dave Rogers is a former editorial writer for the Bay City Times and a widely read,
respected journalist/writer in and around Bay City.
(Contact Dave Via Email at carraroe@aol.com)

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