Dry crops? Farmers hope for rain, warmer weather

ESCANABA – As June comes to a close, many local farmers are hoping for more rain and warmer weather to ensure ideal crop-growing conditions.

John Rappette, a part-time farmer who operates Rappette Farms in Escanaba Township, said the oats and hay he grows are doing well, but said the lack of rainfall is affecting corn.

“The corn needs rain,” he said. “We are about two to three weeks behind. Usually the rule of thumb is by Fourth of July corn will be knee high, but I don’t think we’ll see that this year. There’s a lot of concern about the corn not making harvest, but if we get the adequate rain and right weather, the corn will catch up.”

According to Nancy Porath of Porath’s Dairy Farm in Bark River, which grows hay, corn, barley and oats, crops look promising overall, but the weather could impact progress.

“The hay looks wonderful,” she said. “The thing is, it’s got to be sunshine, low heat, low humidity to bale it.”

Like Rappette, she noted corn is behind schedule.

“We need some rain and we need some heat units,” she said. “The humidity’s good for the corn, but not for the hay.”

Warren Schauer, agriculture and farm management educator for Michigan State University Extension in Delta County agreed the central area of the U.P. could use more rain, but said otherwise overall crops are doing fairly well so far.

“I think our first crop of hay is going to be better than last year. Last year we didn’t have a very good first cutting of hay,” he said.

Schauer noted small grains are in good shape after some farmers experienced challenges in getting them planted.

“We’re starting to pick up heat units now, so that’s good since we had a fairly cold and wet spring,” he said.

According to Schauer, the latest update from the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development showed the area is still a bit behind on growing degree days and about an inch and one-half below normal moisture levels based on moisture since April 1.

In fact, May and June of this year for the Escanaba area have been drier compared to the same months in 2012, according to meteorologist Steven Fleegel from the National Weather Service in Marquette. This can be attributed to the cooler weather pattern for the area over the past few months, which brought limited showers and thunderstorms into the area.

But the Escanaba area could experience some rainfall through a new system approaching from the west starting today.

“The weather is largely going to be controlled by a low pressure system moving east over the Dakotas,” said Fleegel. This will affect the entire Great Lakes region, bringing with it the potential for showers and thunderstorms – especially this afternoon and into Thursday.

“That system will linger over the area, so we could still see some lingering showers into Friday and it may linger a bit into Saturday,” he said.

Fleegel noted humidity levels will remain high throughout the day today, but Thursday will usher in some drier air. Northerly Canadian winds are expected to cause temperatures to fall into the upper 60s and lower 70s for Friday and last throughout the weekend and into next week.