While the news of drought and hurricane rains reaches northwestern Pa., Crawford County farmers are gearing up for an overall promising harvest as supported by the continually fruitful farmers market displays surrounding the Meadville Market House on Satuday mornings.
“All in all, it’s been a great growing season,” said market vendor John Ensworth, surrounded by his colorful cornucopia of local, Amish-grown produce.
Ensworth has been a selling locally grown fruits and vegetables at the Market House for about 25 years.
“Everything started about two weeks early,” he said, referring to some local farmers’ early harvesting time in accordance with this year’s weather, which has raised concerns as a result of record heat in the midwest and the approaching effects of Hurricane Isaac.
AccuWeather.com predicts the national corn yield to drop significanty, impacting not only the price of corn for consumption, but corn feed and corn for ethanol
“We lucked out,” said Penn State Extension agronomist Joel Hunter. “Others are more seriously impacted by the drought, which has pretty much been season long.”
Hunter emphasized that corn, specifically for grain, is one of Crawford County’s two main crops along with soybeans and is critical to livestock producers for animal feed. Limited moisture can spell certain doom for cornstalks with little water reserves in the soil, which is the case in some Crawford County areas, according to Hunter.
“We’ve just recently gotten significant showers, which are critical when the corn goes into the reproduction stage,” he said.. “There needs to be enough moisture for pollenation so hopefully the soul will be recharged with water reserves.”
Many farmers in the county’s southern-most regions have begun early chopping and harvesting to salvage their crop and avoid potential losses, having had just enough rain to get by, according to Hunter.
“The corn looks pretty good here, but it’s varied depending on which areas received rains at different times,” he said. “If we had rain to match the sun we’ve been getting these past few months, we’d have record yields.”
Hunter expects the county’s agricultural harvest is expected to be good comparatively with the rest of the state and won’t be heavily affected, if at all, by any northbound remnants of Isaac.
“Isaac won’t affect much here,” echoed Meadville Farm & Gardens Store President Jake Mattocks. “Everything in this area seems to be on course, but unfortunately the high demand for corn will affect prices.”
Mattocks confirmed the call for corn on the local and national level, mainly for livestock farmers and ethanol fuel respectively.
“Corn is in the $8 to $9 range and soy is just about double that; these prices are unheard of,” said Hunter. “Those selling are in good shape, but the people buying are in trouble.”
With the majority of harvesting beginning in earnest around this time, national corn shortfalls could mean an increases that run the gamot from grain feed to the gas pump according AccuWeather.com agricultural meteorologists.
“Locally, the corn and soy are as good as they’ve ever been,” said Crawford County Chairman C. Sherman Allen.
This local insight lines up with statistics from the National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) which projected expectations of more corn for grain and soybeans from 2011, according to a study in early August.
County level results and surveys are still pending with the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but if statewide NASS forecasts are realized, Pennsylvania as a whole would see an approximate 11 percent increase in corn for grain yields and a 1 percent increase in soy compared to last year.
“Soy still has a while before the harvest and we’re expecting a good yield in the area,” said Hunter.
NASS forecasts for this month’s conditions are projected for release on Sept. 12.
Konstantine Fekos can be reached at 724-6370 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.