Constant soaking rains a pain for New Jersey farmers

TRENTON, N.J. - July 5, 2013

"Most of New Jersey has a sandy, loamy soil, so it drains very quickly," said Al Murray, New Jersey's assistant secretary of agriculture. "But some areas have a denser, heavier soil, so they definitely feel the effect when we get a lot of rain in a short period of time."

State officials say last month was the third wettest June on record, as much of New Jersey saw 3 to 4 inches more rainfall than normal. Murray says farmers could now use a stretch of good weather.

"We need temperatures to stay moderate, and we could use some nice, dry breezy days that help air out and dry out the fields," he said.

Most farmers plant their crops over a period of time, so everything doesn't ripen at the same time and they can keep a steady stream of products flowing. But when they can't plant for a few days due to heavy rains or other weather issues, it causes gaps in product supply that can frustrate farmers and consumers.

"It can drive you crazy, because some years you get almost no rain, then you get years like this where it seems like it's pouring every time you look out the window," said John Thompson, who grows "a little bit of everything" at his small farm in central Jersey. He says the weather has delayed some planting and harvesting, but overall he doesn't think it will cause major setbacks.

"We've dealt with droughts, we've dealt with storms, we'll deal with this," Thompson said.

When heavy, persistent rains hit, farmers often have trouble getting their equipment through the very muddy fields, hampering efforts to plant and harvest crops. The abundant precipitation also creates areas of standing water in the fields, which contribute to various mold and fungus problems.

Murray said he knows some farmers who lost parts of their vegetable crops due to damage caused by the stormy weather, while others had to replant after the rains washed away seeds.

"When the soil gets too saturated, it can promote root rot and seed rot," Murray said. "You can also see nitrogen leaching out and other problems."

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