Water management – dry conditions

While it hasn’t been as bad as California, until this week New Jersey had been suffering its own dry spell–before Joaquin started getting closer! Fortunately, while steady, the rain this week hasn’t been as heavy, but there’s still a lot of work to do! Rain can be a blessing, but heavy downpours can lead to bog flooding and have an adverse effect on fruit quality. This is a challenge every day of the year, but during harvest, water management is crucial.

Before the rain started this week, GM Fred Torres had been worried about the water. “We’re starting harvest and it’s dry as a bone,” he said. “In previous years, when the water’s been high enough, we’ve been able to catch it down at Oswego. Now we’re pumping it right back into the reservoir, because we need it there. The other issue this time of year is frost. When there’s frost, we need a lot of water in the pump. So we have to be very careful with our usage. Of course, we can run the wells, but it’s expensive. We can say we need it, but then the question is, is it better to keep the reservoir where it is? We’re hoping to catch some of this rain water to keep reservoirs tip top. It’s a balancing act, especially this time of year!”

The producing bogs aren’t the only ones affected by the weather. “The new plantings get water three times a day. Since they don’t have the root system an established bog does they can go backwards more quickly,” explains New Production Manager Mike Haines. “They were actually holding up really well for a while; the drier beds were actually sending out more roots, which seemed logical to me…but again, you can’t have it too dry or the plants will get stressed. We’ve had to start watering more.” He is also working on an experiment with the ditch levels at the Warehouse renovation. “The big concern with heavy rains is always washout on the edges,” he says. “But now we have that coconut mat. So we’re raising the water to different levels in the ditches. We’ll see what happens.”

The rain started Tuesday night, and our team has been working to manage the water ever since! “Tuesday we got three inches of rain overnight,” supervisor Gerardo Ortiz says. “We’re putting boards in at the gates and some at the pumps so we can hold it a little bit. The reservoirs have to come up a couple more inches to get to the level we want; between the harvest and frost we’re going to need all we can get!” As of today, he was feeling positive: “We’ve had about five inches, but it’s coming slow and steady. That makes it a lot easier…and we really need it!”