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Farmers battle Mother Nature
May 05, 2004 12:00 am
Wilson County farmers are battling a fickle Mother Nature, and so far they are winning.
Local farmers are reporting few ill effects of the recent unusually cool and rainy weather in Middle Tennessee, but are looking forward to a return to warmer, drier conditions.
Jack Pratt of Pratt's Orchard and Garden Center, which produces apples, peaches and sweet corn, reported having to build fires for warmth in the orchard overnight on Sunday. Overnight lows were forecast in the 40s, but Pratt said as he monitored the temperature throughout the night, it got down into the 30s.
"I stayed up all night watching," Pratt said. "I set a fire out there to get it warm, and that raised the temperature up to about 40, so I didn't worry anymore."
Pratt said over the last two years, unseasonably cool temperatures affected some of his crop, especially peaches, noting that his peach crop only produced about 10 percent of its potential. But this year, the peaches seem to be doing very well, he said, as is the sweet corn, both expected to be ready for harvest in June.
State Rep. Stratton Bone, also a farmer in Wilson County, said he has seen profound changes in overall weather patterns through the years.
"I have lived in Wilson County all my life," Bone said. "The winters are not as severe as they used to be. This past winter was pretty mild, for example, and we had a lot of rainfall last year."
Bone said that last year, heavy rainfall reduced tobacco yield, but pasture did very well, in fact, he noted that usually by this time of the year, most baled hay has been sold or used up, but that there seems to be an abundance this year.
"It should be a good, early hay crop," Bone said.
State agriculture officials have noted the appearance of alfalfa weevils in some fields, which farmers are spraying as needed. More that 75 percent of the state's pastures were rated in good to excellent condition as of last week, the most recent numbers available.
Jon Kelley, of Kelley's Berry Farm, said some of his early strawberries are already being harvested.
"I started picking strawberries April 20," Kelley said. "They are firm right now. I have a new variety which comes in early and its doing very well."
Kelley said continued overnight cool temperatures will slow the ripening of the berries, but he expects warmer weather soon.
"It's supposed to be sunny the rest of the week," Kelley said. "We've got a lot of strawberries that need picking right now, so tell everyone to come on out."
State agriculture statistics show 98 percent of apples beyond the budding stage, 97 percent of peaches blooming or beyond and about 45 percent of corn already emerging.
"Over 95 percent of the state's apple and peach crops have reached or exceeded the blooming stage. Strawberries were rated in mostly good condition, while farmers have a positive outlook on harvest," according to the state's weekly weather and crop bulletin, dated April 26, the most recent report available.