Posted: Thursday, May 05, 2011 9:00 AM
Rain plays havoc with Oregon vegetable plantings
By MITCH LIES
With some notable exceptions, Western Oregon farmers are finding enough breaks in the wet spring weather to get crops in the ground and apply crop additives.
For some, however, the 2011 crop outlook already has soured.
Vegetable plantings are backing up for the second year in a row and could push some production out.
Manuel Silveira, vice president of agricultural service for Norpac Foods, said the cooperative had to cancel some corn contracts last year because rain in the spring pushed back harvest to the point the cannery ran out of production time.
Already this spring, Silveira said, Norpac has shifted a sizable amount of pea production out of the valley to Eastern Oregon and Eastern Washington. The co-op fears the weather might not clear up soon enough to get bean and corn acres planted in a timely fashion.
"We're roughly two weeks behind schedule," Silveira said May 2.
"You can only put so much through a processing plant," said Dan McGrath, Linn County extension agent for commercial vegetable crops. "At a certain point, you have to start cutting acres."
McGrath said the wet spring places several crops are at risk, including onions.
"If you don't plant them soon enough, they don't have a chance to grow large enough," McGrath said. "You need to get onions in the ground by mid-May or you will tend to produce smaller bulbs."
Broccoli production, too, is at risk, McGrath said.
"Normally broccoli is going in the ground starting now," McGrath said May 2. "But the soil is far from ready.
"When you drive around the countryside and see water pooled in the soil, that means there is no where for the water to go. It's saturated," McGrath said.
The situation for larger acreage crops, such as grass seed and wheat, isn't as bad, according to extension service and grower reports.
"We've had two years in a row that have been a little bit of a challenge in the spring," said midvalley grass seed and wheat grower Tim Van Leeuwen. "But with the breaks in the weather, we've been able to fertilize the grass seed, and get fungicides on the wheat."
Still, unless rains let up soon, many valley growers will be looking at short yields, Linn County extension agent Mark Mellbye said. And fungicide applications in wheat are up well above normal.
"I'm guessing I'll need four shots of fungicides on wheat," Van Leeuwen said. Normally, he said, two shots carry him through a year.
The rainy spring also is slowing nursery sales, said Silverton nursery producer Dave Bielenberg.
"We're trying to ship some spring bedding plants, but people aren't in their gardens," Bielenberg said.
The good news, Bielenberg said, is the rainy, cold weather is lowering rust pressure on grass seed crops.
"That will be a benefit," he said. "Of course that made the disease pressure worse on wheat.
"It's kind of like everything in farming," Bielenberg said. "What's good for one guy is bad for another."