Crops thrive in rain, sun

Despite about four days at the end of June and seven consecutive days of rain in the first half of July, local farms aren’t seeing much damage from the rains.

Randy Wagner, 53, co-owner of R&K Wagner Farms in Lowell, hasn’t seen many negative effects.

“You never know what Mother Nature is going to throw at you,” said Wagner, who is co-owner of the farm with his brother, Keith.

Randy Wagner said the blueberries are so big, the branches are hanging to the ground, and the corn is coming on really well, too.

Ted Lane, the owner of Lane’s Fruit Farm on Ohio 676 just outside of Marietta said his blueberries are larger than normal, but they are taking longer to ripen.

The farmers whose crops rely on the right amount of precipitation have had plenty the past three weeks, and in some cases, too much. That’s in direct contrast to July 2012 when farmers had to contend with near-drought conditions. It wasn’t until August 2012 that the rain came.

“We need the rain and sunshine,” Lane said. “We need them in the right proportions.”

The National Weather Service in Charleston, W.Va. is expecting a slight chance of rain through Friday with temperatures in the high 80s to low 90s. During the weekend, the chance of rain increases to about 50 percent with temperatures in the high 80s.

Marietta weather watcher Charlie Worsham said many places had more rainy days than here, but it hasn’t rained every day July 1-13 as most people think.

Washington County’s Agriculture and Natural Resources Program Coordinator with The Ohio State University’s Extension Office Levi Morrow said most of the problems he has heard about have been tomato blight because of the wet weather.

“As I talk to those out in the county during the past week, undoubtedly the hot topic of discussion has been the excessive rainfall,” Morrow said. “From the farmers who have struggled to get hay up, wheat cut and fields sprayed to home gardens being droned and weeds taking over from our inability to cultivate, the rain might have left (them) feeling discouraged.”

The improving weather conditions this week will be the key in determining how bad the damages from the rainy days are, Morrow said.

“Now that we have better weather coming, plants are starting again and we’ll see what really got affected,” Morrow said.

The rain has been a barrier for picking, too, Lane said.

“We are trying to get the harvesting done,” he said “We go down there to pick, and we get rained out. We just need to get it sold and used up as soon a possible. We get some sunshine, and it warms up, we should be OK.”

Early blight in potatoes and tomatoes will thrive in conditions with high humidity and rainfall. Blight is a fungal disease that typically starts from the bottom (oldest leaves) first and work its way up. Unfortunately, once the crop has it, not much can be done immediately, Morrow said.

For 2014, however, fall tillage, crop rotation and selecting disease-free seeds and transplants might help in not getting blight again. Also, many diseases are spread through waterborne pathogens, Morrow said.

“Be sure to keep your eyes out during the next couple weeks for your plants showing signs of a developing disease, such as discoloration of the plant or leaves and limbs beginning to die,” he said.

Lane said the demand for produce has increased during the past couple of years and people are more aware of the benefits of local produce.

“I have to move it,” Lane said. “If I increase the price too much, it’s not going to move. Fruit is one thing you can’t sit on.”