Frank Caruso, plant pathologist for the UMass Cranberry Station research center in Wareham, Mass., says the cool and damp weather could cause problems for the potato, tomato and strawberry crops.
Beneath darkening clouds that threatened yet more rain, a smaller-than-normal turnout of visitors examined the produce at the Quincy Farmers’ Market.
Glenn Stillman, who owns a vegetable farm in New Braintree, lamented to a customer about this year’s difficult growing conditions.
“We have not been on the fields for 11 days now,” Stillman said. “We just have to wait until it drains out and dries. I left instructions this morning: harrow anything you can.”
June’s unusually cool and rainy weather has disrupted the growth of tomato and corn at local farms, threatened strawberry crops, and delayed pollination of the region’s cranberry stock. This is in contrast to some crops, like lettuce and root vegetables, that thrive in cool, wet climates. Thus, locally-grown sweet corn, which like tomatoes needs consistent sun and heat, may arrive at farm-stands later than usual this year, growers say.
Additionally, agricultural researchers are tracking the spread of a late blight that threatens to rot tomato and potato crops.
The Phytophthora infestans strain is the same mold that contributed to the 19th century Irish potato famine. The current outbreak has been identified in central New York and Long Island, and is now considered a threat to New England farms.
Thriving in cool foggy weather, the blight first appears as dark spots on green leaves and spreads throughout plants.
“We’ve had perfect weather for blight to affect the potatoes and tomatoes,” said Frank Caruso, plant pathologist for the UMass Cranberry Station research center in Wareham.
Rain makes strawberries susceptible to a gray mold fungus. The wet weather also has hampered farmers’ ability to spray crops with fungicide, Caruso said.
Blame the rain, too, for delays in pollinating the region’s cranberry crop. Cranberries bloom for about six weeks in late spring and early summer, and many growers installed beehives on their bogs last week. But rather than pollinating the blossoms, the bees are waiting out the rainy weather cycle.
“The bees are just sitting in the hives,” Caruso said.
Stillman’s Farm plants crops such as lettuce and corn every week in optimal conditions, but the cycle has been disrupted this year, Glenn Stillman said.
“If it stays dry for three days, we’re going to go like mad, 15- to 20-hour days,” he said. “We’ve got to be positive.”
Steve Adams may be reached at email@example.com