Weather effects – update

We talked a couple of weeks ago about the weather this spring and the issues that could come up as a result, and this week we spoke with other growers as well as researchers to learn what kind of effects they’ve been seeing.

On our own place, things are starting to catch up. “Stuff is really starting to grow,” says manager Mike Haines. “We’re starting to see hook stage out in the bogs, which is the growth stage right before bloom. So we’ve been getting busy already.” The drawback to plant growth, he says, is that the pests grow right along with it, and some of them can be very dangerous to a crop. “The blackheaded fireworm is particularly dangerous, because they reproduce so quickly,” he says. “So even if you only see a couple, it means you have to move fast.” To that end, his team has been working diligently to scout the entire farm for various pests as well as creating a plan for handling possible infestation.

The weather’s also been an issue for the operation next door. Steve Lee III, of Lee Brothers in Speedwell, is seeing the same effect. “We were running a good week, ten days behind,” he says. “Growth kind of exploded after it cleared up; I suspect the warm weather and warm nights are helping that now.” While he’s observed another 3/4 inches of growth once things warmed up, “I don’t think you ever catch entirely back up; once you’re behind stay a little behind. It’ll probably have an effect on yield, but how much, I don’t know.”

“New Jersey cranberry beds are, in general, way behind,” says Dan Schiffhauer, an ag scientist with Ocean Spray. “Normally by this time we would be seeing a lot of hook on early varieties such as Stevens, Ben Lear, Crimson Queen, and DeMoranville, and would expect bloom to begin by early June. This year there are quite a few beds that are just beginning to show hook and bloom will probably start [about] 7 days later than normal.” He has some concerns about yield, as well: “I worry that NJ will have the type of bloom that used to occur when everyone held the water until mid-May. The resulting growth was explosive (with lots of tipworm damage) and bloom tended to be compressed. The net result was lower yields. There is nothing anyone can do about this but hope that the current very hot weather doesn’t persist.” The good news: he has yet to see any tipworm damage.

Dan also suggests that growers should watch vines carefully when the weather suddenly transitions from wet and cool to hot. “Vines that have had little to no heat or water stress can wilt suddenly if beds become too dry,” he says. “It may seem counterintuitive to water more than normal after all the rain we have had this spring but it may be required until the vines ‘normalize’ to the more common temperatures encountered in New Jersey.”