Dry weather means lower crop yields in N.Y.
The lack of rainfall this summer has put a damper on local farmers' yields of corn, hay, cabbage, snap beans and soybeans.
At the same time, dry conditions have brought out the best in several late-summer and autumn fruit crops, said area officials from the New York State Farm Bureau.
"It looks like we're going to have an outstanding year for grapes — the yield may be slightly down but the quality is excellent," said Mark James, executive director of the Farm Bureau's Finger Lakes office.
The same goes for the apples — although they are smaller in size and fewer in number, many are sweeter than normal this year. Peaches are also sweeter this year, James said.
That's because dry conditions cause the sugar in the fruits to become concentrated, boosting their sweetness.
Vegetables and feed crops, however, haven't been so lucky.
Yields of grain corn, cabbage, squash, sweet corn and green beans have been "less than ideal" at Hemdale Farms in Seneca Castle, said employee Ryan Akin. The lack of rainfall has also taken its toll on soybeans and early hay.
"Hay is going to be really short in terms of filling the demands of both the dairy industry and the equine industry," said John Lincoln, a Bloomfield dairy farmer and president of New York Farm Bureau.
Likewise, the low volume of corn silage could "pose a problem for livestock and dairy producers, but it's not necessarily a crisis at this point," James said. Corn silage is field corn chopped — stalks and all — and tightly packed, for example, in silos or white plastic bags.
Low soil moisture has prompted farmers to harvest crops earlier than usual. Grain corn, for instance, will be harvested beginning in mid-October — two to three weeks earlier than usual, James said.
According to the National Weather Service, the Rochester and Buffalo areas are in a "moderate drought" while Ontario County is "abnormally dry." Rainfall is about 50 percent lower than normal in Buffalo and Rochester and about 25 percent below average in Ontario County, based on 30-year averages for each region for the period from May 1 through Sept. 8.
A good, persistent rain spanning several days would alleviate dry conditions more than a short, heavy thunderstorm would, said Tony Ansuini of the National Weather Service's Buffalo office. And WHEC-TV (Channel 10) meteorologists are calling for showers and thunderstorms both Wednesday and Thursday this week.
For many farmers, those rains will come too late.
"We need some rain to fill the water table back up, but from a farmer's standpoint we generally like to have the fall be a little more dry," Lincoln said. "That makes it easier to harvest the crops that are already out there."
With the growing season wrapping up, "the yields of most of the crops are already pretty well determined," he added.
Hilary Smith can be reached at (585) 394-0770, Ext. 343, or at