Has lack of rain hurt local crops?

Dylan Goetz • Jul 12, 2018 at 11:00 AM

A recent 12-day stretch of little to no rain has caused some trouble to the crops at area farms.

With a dry forecast for the next few days, those crops may be at serious risk without proper irrigation.

Roger Umlor, owner of Centennial Fruit in Conklin, said the lack of rain has begun to affect some of the young trees.

“We can irrigate about half of our crops,” he said. “If they don’t get some water soon, the fruit size diminishes when we pick in the fall.”

Although the recent stretch has been hot, these temperatures are common for Michigan summers, Umlor said. There are dry stretches and wet stretches during every summer, he noted.

“It’s a pretty normal time to be hot,” Umlor said. “But, there’s been no rain for a while and none in the forecast.”

The biggest difficulty for farmers is staying ahead of the game and being prepared for dry stretches. Farmers must plan out irrigation systems and get them installed years before, so predicting the weather is extremely important.

Dry stretches in the weather also cost farmers with higher water and electricity bills, plus parts and supplies for irrigation.

Some crops, such as blueberries, aren’t too affected by the heat. However, the soil must be well-drained to avoid too much water.

Since all of his crops are under irrigation, Dave Reenders, owner of Crossroads Blueberry Market in Robinson Township, said he’s not too worried about the recent dry stretch.

“Natural rain is better and much more even,” he said. “It provides other things with the rain, like not as much evaporation, too.”

Reenders would prefer about 1 inch of rainfall each week. But if that doesn’t happen, his investment in a full irrigation system pays off.

“Irrigation has to be planned out and set up when you plant,” he said. “It’s a long-term investment on irrigation.”

The first chance of relief from the drought comes this weekend. The National Weather Service is calling for a slight chance for thunderstorms Friday night through Sunday.

“I would like to see the rain every Sunday, since that’s the day that I don’t work,” Reenders said with a chuckle.

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