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Condition of our crops

Alex Doty • Jun 24, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Hot, dry conditions were becoming commonplace across Ottawa County and much of West Michigan for most of the late spring.

But recently, the region has received rain, and temperatures have drifted downward.

Although conditions have improved, the Michigan State University Extension service says products like small fruit crops still require supplemental irrigation to make up for the lack of water in order to be successful.

Given our roller coaster of weather conditions, how are some of our county crops doing this season?

Blueberries

Dave Reenders of Crossroads Blueberry Farm in Grand Haven Township is anticipating a good season for this year’s blueberry harvest.

“The winter was light, so the bushes came out of the winter good,” he said.

Reenders noted that even with the hot, dry conditions that’ve occurred the past several weeks, recent weather has helped out on the fields.

“I think our crop is coming in pretty nicely, as far as the timing,” he said. “I think we’re on schedule.”

According to the MSU Extension, most blueberries varieties are still in the green fruit stage, but continue to size as they advance toward the harvest stage of development.

Reenders said there could be a little bit of earlier variety blueberries ready for the picking around July 4, but noted that the bulk of the crop probably won’t be ready to harvest until the middle of the month.

The extension service says problems with the blueberry crop are related to a heavy June drop in the Jersey and Elliott varieties due to a combination of drought and bad pollination. After this week’s rains, conditions in most fields are expected to improve.

Insect pest problems are related to large numbers of cranberry fruitworm adults still trapped in blueberry fields. Those pests continued flying during the past week, with large numbers still being caught in the area.

Vegetable crops

While the asparagus season is coming to a close for many farmers, there is still plenty to look forward to for many other veggies later in the year.

This includes the produce that Mike Dykstra specializes in at T. Dykstra & Sons Inc. The Hudsonville farm focuses on peppers, pumpkin and squash that’s harvested later this year.

Dykstra said the season for them has gone well since they start their planting season later than other growers.

“When we got out there, a lot of that (hot, dry weather) was already past,” he said. “It’s going pretty well.”

Dykstra said that’s a far cry from what other producers had to deal with that plant earlier in the year.

“I think some of those growers earlier, it was so wet, then they got the cold weather, and then it was dry,” he said. “We missed out on all of that.”

Corn, potatoes, beans

It looks like corn will be ready come harvest time.

Mitch Visser of Crisp Country Acres in Holland said the farm did lose some of its bean crop in some of the higher areas that froze hard and a small amount of peppers that were not protected.

“When we had the cold weather, we try to protect them by improving the microclimate by putting down plastic over the rows and we put frost cloth where we could over some of the crops,” Visser said. “We covered a lot of potatoes, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini, cucumbers, pickles, and a lot of lettuce and spinach.”

Potatoes is the other crop most impacted by the weather, and a large portion of them turned black because of the heavy frost. Visser said area farmers are not too alarmed about the potato crop because potatoes can start over and be back on track within 2-3 weeks.

Strawberries

According to the MSU Extension service, the strawberry harvest continues with fruit of good flavor and quality due to dry weather that limited the presence of fruit rots at harvest time. However, some fields affected by root diseases had to cut their harvest short because the plants had increased water demand.

Another problem that affected strawberry fields was the presence of bronzing caused by weather conditions and, in some cases, by an outbreak of bugs.

Dale DeLange, of DeLange’s Redberry Farm in Hudsonville, noted that his production is down about 40 percent from this time last year.

“Every time you have a weather change or a different kind of weather pattern, you can get different pests and bugs and things like that,” he said. “When you have long stretches of dry, windy weather, we have seen some infiltration of pests that flew in.”

DeLange also said that because of the early warm-up the area had this year, his crops started to grow early, but then experienced freeze damage when temperatures dropped again.

The Holland Sentinel contributed to this report.

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