“It burned the tops of the leaves:” Eastern Shore farmers crops feeling the impacts of the recent weather

EASTERN SHORE, Md.- Relying on the weather can be a gamble when you’re an Eastern Shore farmer. One day farmers are looking at the forecast and it seems like the weather will be good for their crops, but then they’re suddenly hit with a surprise.

“Last week we had a frost, so if you have already planted your crop you’re going to lose everything,” Nadine Burton, Alternative Crops Specialist with University of Maryland Eastern Shore, said.

“If it had stayed cold for another hour, oh it would’ve been a disaster,” Virgil Shockley, a Worcester County farmer, said.

Shockley said these wild weather conditions have been happening recently. Last week, the forecast showed 36 degrees but that changed to 29 degrees. This is something his kiwi plants couldn’t handle.

“If you were lucky enough, it didn’t kill it,” Shockley said. “Then, it will start over again, but as far as the fruit this year it’s gone, there wont be any,” Shockley said.

He notes that parts of his strawberry plants couldn’t survive the hectic weather as well.

“It burned the tops of the leaves, and they will bounce right on back,” Shockley said.

And, just down the street you’ll find where Virgil recently planted his corn. He said in order for corn to sprout, soil temperatures need to be at least 50 degrees at night, but for farmers who may have planted weeks ago temperatures were below this, which could impact corn growth.

“If you’ve got the corn down in the ground for more than 10 days, for every day past they say 12 days, you lost 2% on your population, you started with 30,000 kernels, and you’re losing 2% per day, that’s 600 plants per day,” Shockley said.

A professor at The University of Maryland Eastern Shore said with the weather flip flopping on the Shore like this, it can be risky for crops already in the ground.

“If April it warms up very good, some years you can get away with that, some years you can’t get away with that,” Burton said.

And, with that said, she’s encouraging farmers to not plant until after May 15 when the weather may be less harmful.

“I think it’s safer to lose a month earlier in the market, then to lose your entire crop, so I think for us on the lower shore we should sort of wait until the coast is clear,” Burton said.

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