Recent Rain ‘Drop In Bucket’ During Drought

gregrothArea farmers have welcomed the recent rainfall, although in some cases it can be too much of a good thing. A respected Penn State agronomist, Dr. Greg Roth (right), said that some implications of the drought of 2012 are irreversible. Speaking during the recent Penn State Agricultural Sciences Research Tour, held at the Southeast Agricultural Research and Extension Center in Manheim, Roth said the drought is serious, but not yet the worst farmers have seen, and there is still hope for this year’s crop.

“We still have decent potential for good grain yields,” he said. “This early-season drought has more impact on silage yield potential, while grain crops have more potential to recover. But we still need rain.” A big area of concern is the forage supply, according to Roth. Yields from later hay cuttings are expected to be low as growth has slowed and pastures have browned. Corn crops are shorter with likely lower silage yields. Some corn will be ready for silage harvest early enough to allow time to plant fall cover crops for forage to supplement supplies.

Diseases generally have been kept at bay by the dry weather. Roth said the dry weather in June contributed to less disease on the wheat crop, saying the recently harvested wheat looked good in yield and quality. “Nevertheless, dry weather has had significant impacts,” he said. “We had a significant drought last year, and many farmers hoped to rebuild inventory this year.” Roth said that in the worst areas, some farmers are salvaging corn for silage and replanting their fields to crops such as sorghum-sudan grass. Another challenge facing farmers this year is higher grain prices, which will hit livestock producers hard.

Among those attending were state senators and representatives and commissioners from several counties. Steve Bogash, a horticulture educator, told attendees that recent consumer research confirms the conviction he and many other agricultural researchers have held for many years. “Growers have great potential for a bright future in Pennsylvania, based on what consumers are saying they want,” Bogash said. “There is an increase in demand for locally grown products and the main reason is that it tastes better. What we’re finding is that people really do care where their food comes from.” Bogash has been a strong advocate of high-tunnel growing methods. For the past dozen years, he has experimented with more than 300 varieties of tomatoes for flavor, appearance, disease resistance and general marketability.

img_18811Dr. Beth Gugino, a plant pathologist, presented an update on the ongoing battle against timber rot, late blight and other threats to production. She reinforced Bogash’s points about the potential for Pennsylvania farm products to fare better in the consumer marketplace because of their taste and appearance. Also speaking was Dr. Alyssa Collins, a plant and soil sciences specialist, who is directing research into production of flowers and other ornamental plants, as well as potted vegetables for urban gardening. Potter County Commissioner Paul Heimel (center) was among those looking over Dr. Collins’ experimental plantings.

Potter County Today is a timely information site courtesy of the Potter County Commissioners. Reprinted with Permission.

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