PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — This is a challenging growing season for farmers. First a warm winter then an early spring frost and now fields are frying.
“It’s just sucking the water right out of the ground,” says Larry Voll of Soergel’s Orchards and Farm Market in Wexford.
We are on the edge of a drought. A string of scorching temperatures and over the past 40 days, rainfall is 3 inches below average.
“In this area right here we miss the rain,” Voll said. “It seems like it hits Beaver County at the state line it seems to hit a wedge and goes north of us.”
Local blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are in, but the current sweet corn being picked is stunted.
“And the corn ears themselves are at this time there should be 9 or 10 inches long – ours are 6, 7 inches long.”
But it’s even sweeter.
The dry spell is forcing farmers to irrigate what they can. All crops need water to grow, but fruits like tomatoes and apples and vegetables like peppers and young pumpkins really need it to grow to a size, yield and quality that’s marketable.
A single Macintosh apple tree needs 40 to 50 gallons of water daily.
Pumpkin plants are being kept alive using water-saving “trickle irrigation,” tapping into the municipal system.
“If we were to overhead this with irrigation – spray it – it would take 27,000 gallons of water to get like an inch of rain.”
So, what does all this mean to consumers salivating for fresh summer’s bounty?
“I’m not saying we’re not going to raise some prices but it’s going to be minimal.”
But because corn is the primary feed grain for dairy cows and other farm animals, look for those prices to spike.
In June, a bushel of corn was just over $5. Now that same bushel is $7.17.