Heavy Rainfall Causes Loss of Crops at New Jersey Farms

June 18, 2013 | Energy & Environment
An abnormally wet June has caused some crops of strawberries to mold and delayed the planting of watermelon.

By Lauren Wanko
NJ Today

Heavy rain this afternoon drenched the crops on Honey Brook Organic Farm in Pennington. Farm Manager Sherry Dudas says enough is enough.

“It’s really creating some major problems in the field,” Dudas said.

The National Weather Service in Mount Holly says so far it’s been an abnormally wet June for the Trenton area. To date the rainfall has been 6.71 inches. That’s four inches above normal.

“Well the first thing that a lot of rain means is that you don’t have a lot of sun so it is really adversely impacting plant growth. Also, it makes it harder for us to get out into the fields when they’re sopping wet so heavy tractors can’t get in to transplant some of our summer crops,” Dudas said.

Crops like watermelon. Because of the soggy soil, farmers haven’t been able to plant it yet. The wet weather makes it difficult to control the weeds and they end up choking the crop. The moist conditions also create the perfect breeding ground for mold.

“This spring, the crop that was most directly affected by the overabundant rain was our strawberries and they’re a very high value crop for us. The fungus that we have in the fields now is called gray mold and it really loves wet, moist conditions,” Dudas said.

The farm lost 30 percent of its strawberry crop to fungus and since the organic farm doesn’t use any chemicals, the fungus is especially challenging.

“As we move further into our history at Honey Brook Organic Farm, we’re actually finding global weather events are really impacting our farm and other farms like ours throughout New Jersey, so we’re learning how to be smarter with respect to farming under challenging conditions,” Dudas said.

That means putting more crops — like blackberries — on raised beds. That protects them from being inundated with an overabundance of rain.

The good news is the wet weather hasn’t affected business at Honey Brook. That’s because it’s a community supported agriculture farm and members pre-pay in advance of the growing season.

“I think that this marketing model really has a lot of potential opportunity to help farmers in this time of transition with the weather still be able to do economically OK,” Dudas said.

The rain didn’t keep Trenton resident Carol Monaghan away from the farm.

“You’re gonna slosh in the rain no matter what,” Monaghan said. “Here the impact is when you go into the fields to pick, you definitely need your boots on.”

The National Weather Service predicts sunny, warm temperatures for the rest of the week. That’s something Honey Brook Organic Farm is counting on.