County corn crop in need of steady rain
And that just may be today, said meteorologist Nick Schwartz. And maybe over the coming weekend, he said, though it’s nothing to hang your hat on — neither the forecast or the amount of rain itself.
“Overall it’s a really dry pattern,” Schwartz said. “Here we are halfway through the month and we’re only a quarter of the way to our monthly average.”
Just a little more than half an inch of rain has fallen in the first 17 days of July, which have ranged from highs of 76 degrees on the 7th to 94 degrees on Monday. Normal rainfall for the same period is about two to three inches, Schwartz said.
Conditions would be a lot worse if the area had not had a lot of rain in June, he said.
“It was a wet month for folks around the community and that was kind of a saving grace for us,” Schwartz said.
The hot, dry month does not bode well for Leelanau farmers, like Roger Noonan, who grows corn, small grains and alfalfa on his 1,100-acre Kasson Township farm.
Noonan said the yield from his small grains — wheat, oats and rye — was OK, but he’s already lost about two-thirds of his hay crop.
And the corn crop is not looking good, he said.
“The corn — we’ve probably lost almost 50 percent of the crop due to the drought,” Noonan said. “If we can get some rain in the next few days we might be able to save the rest. Otherwise we’ll lose the whole crop.”
Noonan, a third-generation farmer in Leelanau County, said good years usually offset the bad ones. But as far as corn goes, he’s only had one good year in the last four or five.
“The last couple of years the corn crop hasn’t been very good,” he said.
Jeff Send is a cherry farmer in Bingham Township.
“No. 1, as a farmer, we need rain,” Send said. “But we’re not hurting as badly as the row crop people. They’re really hurting.”
A lack of rain mostly affects young trees whose roots haven’t sunk in deep enough to reach water sources. Young trees are still all right, but stressed, Send said. Normally, rain is needed in early July to be soaked up by trees and cherries, making for a heavier cherry crop. Farmers are paid by the pound for cherries.
But this year there’s not much of a crop, he added. The last cherries brought to Send farms in preparation for production was on July 12, three weeks or more ahead of the normal end of the harvest.
The lack of rain may begin to affect other businesses.
Matt Wiesen, owner of Crystal River Outfitters in Glen Arbor, is asking everyone to do a rain dance.
“At this point we’re hanging in there, but it’s incredibly dry,” Wiesen said. “We need some rain.”
So far this year business has been good, he said, but that could change if some rain doesn’t come soon. Crystal River Outfitters rents canoes, kayaks and tubes for runs down the Crystal River. A wet spring helped, he said, as well as a water management plan that has been in place for several years. Water levels in the Crystal River are maintained by a dam at the mouth of the river in Glen Lake, and the wet spring helped to fill up the lake, he said.
The forecast shows the potential for rain in the future, Wiesen said, and that’s a good thing.