Stubborn cold, rainy weather further delays spring planting
‘We’ve waited long enough’: After days of bad-weather delay, some Delta farmers resume planting, fertilizing
For the second year in a row, cool rainy spring weather is keeping Delta Junction farmers from completing spring planting on schedule.
The farmers had about two weeks of good planting weather last month before cool temperatures and rain set in this past weekend. UAF Cooperative Extension Service agent Phil Kaspari says that was just enough time for most of them to plant crops for livestock feed.
“We’re three-quarters done with the small-grain planting,” he said Wednesday. “Y’know, barley, wheat, oats, some field peas and a little bit of canola.”
Kaspari says those who weren’t able to get those plants in the ground may have to wait until the weather system that’s brought frost to some areas passes through.
“For the folks that are still trying to get barley planted -- yeah, this is going to be a setback,” he said. “Normally we like to be going by the 10th of May.”
Cool weather was a big problem last year, when farmers had to wait even longer to plant. That and the short growing season and other problems sent the price of livestock feed soaring. So after another late breakup this year, farmers hustled to prevent that from happening again.
Many planted hay this year, which Kaspari says will do just fine with all that rainfall.
“The folks that are doing hay acreage, which is the bulk of our acreage here in the Delta area, this is a real blessing,” he said.
But it’ll be a mixed blessing for the all of the area’s farmers, because the precipitation also will bring a bumper crop of weeds.
“The weeds are going to love this,” he said, “so people have to be prepared to deal with weed management.”
Delta farmer Scott Mugrage says he’s already working on that, as weather permits.
“This rain’s kind of making that tough for me,” he said Wednesday. “I’m a little behind in my spraying now.”
Mugrage, who’s also a rancher and president of the Alaska Farm Bureau, says he’s held-off spraying weed-killer, because it’s not as effective when applied during rainy spells. He says he’s also behind schedule applying fertilizer to his fields.
“We just don’t like to fertilize in the rain,” he said. “It’s hard on equipment, so we’ve been holding-off on that.”
But Alaska’s growing season is short, and time’s a’wastin’, so Mugrage said he and his crew began fertilizing Wednesday, despite the mud and rain.
“We’ve waited long enough. We’ve gotta go,” he said. “Y’know it’s hard to sit by and watch the time pass when you know you’ve got things to do.”
The Cooperative Extension’s Kaspari says time is always on the mind of farmers. And the last two years have made it clear that they can’t count on a late fall to make up for a late spring.
“It just seems like our Augusts have been extra drizzly and wet,” he said, “and then it drags the harvest season well into September.”
Farmers hope that won’t happen again this year. Kaspari says they’d like to finish baling hay and straw before September. And if they’re still out in the fields that late, he hopes it’s because farmers are harvesting a second cutting of those crops.