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Cold, rain limiting corn crop

Mirror photo by Gary M. Baranec Gary Long looks over his Sinking Valley corn crop recently. Growers said most local sweet corn will not be ready for sale until the third week of July because late frosts injured and killed some early corn, and other fields were flooded.

Mother Nature has put a damper on this year’s local sweet corn crop.

Growers said most local sweet corn will not be ready for sale until the third week of July.

“This is a year that I have never seen before with all of the rain and cold, wet weather. It’s been a challenge. We had a couple of warm weeks in April. After that it got cold. We have had over 9 inches of rain in the Claysburg area over the last two weeks,” said Sam Weyant, owner of Sam Weyant Berry and Vegetable Farms, Claysburg. “I planted mine on the 12th of April. We would have been on target for the Fourth of July; in a typical year, everyone should have corn around the Fourth of July.”

Kelly Baronner, co-owner of Baronner’s Farm Market, Hollidaysburg, and Gary Long, who plants eight acres of sweet corn in Sinking Valley, also said their corn won’t be ready until about the third week of July.

However, Long said some Amish farmers in Sinking Valley, who planted under plastic, may have some sweet corn available around July 4.

“There will be a couple of weeks in July when it will be pretty scarce,” Long said. “There will be a shortage of early corn, but lots of corn later around the first of August.”

The sweet corn business is important. It makes up a significant part of Pennsylvania’s $6.8 billion in cash receipts for fresh produce. According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service, the value of sweet corn produced in 2012 (the most recent numbers) was more than $40 million.

Without a doubt, the weather has been the major factor in the delay.

“Late frosts injured and even killed some early corn. Some low-lying fields were flooded, resulting in stunted/dying plants. The cool, wet weather has also caused a delay in the maturation and development of sweet corn in some fields,” said Thomas G. Ford, Penn State Extension commercial horticulture educator. “Some area farms have dealt with hail, frost, flooding and deer damage. In addition, insect pressure from European corn borers and corn earworms seem to be a little heavier this year, which means that growers will need to compress or shorten their spray program.”

Ford also said sweet corn acreage in Blair County is down a bit as many of the Amish growers are focusing on butternut squash production.

Baronner’s Farm Market is scaling back on its sweet corn production.

“My husband and I are downsizing, and one of our fields is affected by the pipeline project. We expect to have sweet corn around the third week of July but will only have it for about a week and a half to two weeks,” Baronner said.

“Normally we plant on plastic, but we didn’t do that this year. We did it on bare ground. That is why it will be later.”

She admitted it was a difficult decision to scale back production.

“It was a very hard decision for him (husband. Bob). He is 60, and he has been doing this since he was a little boy. We have seven acres that are tillable ground and the pipeline is going through our four-acre field. That has limited the amount of corn we can grow this year. We were the victims of bad timing. Our loyal customers will bear with us; we hope to have more available in a couple of years,” Baronner said.

The spring weather also has hurt other crops, Ford said.

“Cool wet weather had the greatest impact on strawberries. Powdery mildew, botrytis, leaf scorch and angular leaf spot were common this spring. The biggest issues on area vegetable farms included weather-related delays which impacted planting,”Ford said

Insect pressure on all vegetable crops has been observed.

“Our mild winter reduced mortality of overwintering insects resulting in a population explosion this spring. Cucumber beetles and Colorado potato beetles have been particularly bad this year,” Ford said.

Mirror Staff Writer Walt Frank is at 946-7467.

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