The field corn is beginning to show signs of stress from lack of rain. We'll take a closer look next week.
The potato plants this year aren't looking so hot. Their leaves are withered, brown, and crunchy. The affliction: potato leafhoppers.
According to Cornell University Cooperative Extension, "The potato leafhopper (PLH) is a serious pest of vegetable, forage, and fruit crops in the eastern and midwestern United States. The PLH is a sucking insect, removing plant sap
directly from the vascular (water and food transport) system in the leaflet, petioles, and sometimes the stem. In the feeding process, the PLH injects asalivary toxin that causes injury to the plant. Feeding injury sometimes
appears very similar to disease symptoms or nutrient imbalance. By adversely affecting the vascular system, PLH reduces photosynthesis, decreases productivity, stunts the plant, and sometimes kills young seedlings. The salivary substance forms a plug in the vascular system in addition to acting as a phytotoxin. Plant damage is frequently intensified during periods of moisture stress."
In other words, the dry weather isn't helping the potatoes either.
According to Farmer Rob, the leafhoppers are a pest that can be counted on every year to inflict damage, though some years are worse than others. Years ago, Farmer Rob recalls, Howell Farm grew a variety of potato that was more resistant to leafhoppers -- thanks to hairy stems -- and the results were dramatic. That year, the potato crop yielded four times as many potatoes as usual.
It's mid-July and Dry Run Creek has lived up to its name. Most of the creek, which runs through the heart of the farm, is now a dry creek bed.
Everything else on the farm is looking a little dry, too. The entirety of Mercer County is now classified as "abnormally dry" by U.S. Drought Monitor. (That's one step below "Moderate Drought.") Most of Middlesex County, Burlington County, Camden County and Gloucester County are also abnormally dry.
Nationwide, it's dryer still. More than 60% of the United States is now classified as experiencing "moderate drought" or worse.
If 2012 in New Jersey has seemed warm so far, you're correct. According to a new report from the New Jersey State Climatologist, January to June 2012 is the warmest first half of the year in New Jersey history, with records going back to 1895:
It has also been a dry six months, ranking as the 16th driest January to June interval in New Jersey history.
Last year, 2011, ranked as the wettest year in New Jersey history and the third hottest.
Growing up, I remember being told that New Jersey's world-class sweet corn should be "knee-high by the Fourth of July." This folk wisdom may once have held true, but modern plant breeding has rendered it obsolete. Corn now grows faster. In fact, I ate my first dozen ears of farm-grown New Jersey sweet corn two days ago.
The Howell Farm corn crop -- it's field corn and some popcorn, but not sweet corn -- is currently waist to chest high.
I did some googling around and one writer suggested a new saying: "The corn is as high as an elephant's eye by the Fourth of July."
Since Saturday's wheat harvest, shocks of wheat have been drying in the field. Today it was time to load the shocks onto a flatbed wagon and put them away in the barn.
This week, more wheat remains to be reaped, bound, shocked, and put away...
The Furrow is the online newsletter of The Friends of Howell Living History Farm. We will be updating this site about once a week with crop reports and other insights into life on a horse-drawn living history farm.
|THE FURROW: The online newsletter of Howell Living History Farm||