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'Average' weather aids crops

July 09, 2004|by RYAN C. TUCK

ryant@herald-mail.com

After last summer, which was the second wettest growing season in Washington County since 1898, area farmers and orchard owners said they are happy to see this year's "average" weather.

Heavy spring rains and average rainfall in June have put Washington County cropland in a "very good" position for the summer's growing season, Washington County Extension agent Jeff Semler said.

"The saying goes, if you're knee-high by the Fourth of July, you'll be fine," Semler said. "The corn is already over your head this year."

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Corn, soybeans and hay seem to be benefiting the most from this year's weather, Semler said.

Colleen Cashell, executive director of the Washington County Farm Service Agency, said those crops will do well, in part because of the average rainfall.

In 2003, farmers said their lands were so wet that they had to plant in less-than-ideal places or not at all, Cashell said.

Bill Gardenhour, owner of Gardenhour Orchards in Smithsburg, said last summer's rainfall was still affecting some area crops.

Area farmers have seen signs of a fungus - scab - Gardenhour said. The fungus doesn't reduce quality in the crops but mars their appearance, he said.

Semler said there have been reports of scab on wheat crops.

Dale Price, owner of Dale Price Farm in Boonsboro, said his crops, especially corn, are doing well this season.

"We're very happy with what's happening to date," he said.

Sharon Tracey, co-owner of the Mountain Valley Orchard in Cavetown, has seen similar results.

"The growing season has been wonderful," she said.

In spite of the problems caused by last summer's rain, area farmers say they would still like to see more, Semler said.

Local weather observer Greg Keefer said 5.54 inches of rain fell in Hagerstown in June, a number Semler called "average."

So far in July, .04 of an inch of rain has fallen, Semler said.

"It's not a drought situation; it's not critical; but (farmers) would like to have some rain," Semler said.

"It's nicer to work around the rains than to be dry," Price said.

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