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Thursday, April 24, 2014
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Weather beaten

Dry conditions this spring have taken a toll on area crops.


Posted on June 1, 2012 at 1:00 a.m.

GOSHEN — Maureen Kercher drives down a gravel path off of C.R. 38 in Goshen, dust kicking up behind her SUV.

“It looks like August,” she says, getting out of her car and commenting on the dry, beige grass under her shoes.

In 31 years of working at Kercher’s Sunrise Orchards, Kercher said she doesn’t remember ever irrigating the rows of vegetables and fruit trees before the beginning of June. The unseasonably hot weather and the absence of rainfall has left farmers, like Kercher, scratching their heads and wondering what lies ahead for their crops.

May was an abnormally dry month for Elkhart County, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It marked the seventh month in a row with above-normal temperatures and the fourth consecutive month with below-normal rainfall. And unfortunately for farmers, the Indiana State Climate Office at Purdue University predicts that this trend will continue through mid-June.

“This has been a strange year,” Purdue University Extension educator Jeff Burbrink said. “I went by a couple of fields in the early part of the week, and it was visible that some of the plants were wilting a bit, and that’s pretty unusual.”

Farmers typically plant their crops three weeks ahead of the last frost, which usually comes around May 10, but Burbrink said this year, they started planting in early April.

Kercher and her team farm 800 acres of land across Elkhart County where they grow cabbage, sweet corn, pumpkins, peppers and squash as well as rows of apple and peach trees. The sizzling, dry weather will force some crops, like corn and zucchini, to be harvested earlier this year, Kercher said.

The orchards have been hit hard by this year’s “bizarre” weather, Kercher said. The mild winter followed by a cold spell in April and May’s oppressive heat have driven the trees to bear less fruit. The farm will have fewer varieties of apples to choose from at their shop, and fall apple picking will be canceled.

Linton’s Enchanted Gardens general manager Kirk Linton said he has gotten a slew questions from customers about lawn care and landscaping because of the unusually dry conditions.

“Water is the key element here,” he said. “Grass is turning brown, but the lawn isn’t dying. It just turns dormant, so rain or a good, deep watering will help the grass pull out of this.”

The National Weather Service, which keeps records for South Bend, reported that the area has received about 5.4 inches of rain this spring, roughly 4 inches lower than last year’s total.

“We’ll have to see what comes next,” Linton said. “Cooler temperatures will be welcome relief.”



 A 15-year-old boy, seen sitting on a stretcher center, who stowed away in the wheel well of a flight from San Jose, Calif., to Maui is loaded into an ambulance at Kahului Airport in Kahului, Maui, Hawaii Sunday afternoon, April 20, 2014. The boy survived the trip halfway across the Pacific Ocean unharmed despite frigid temperatures at 38,000 feet and a lack of oxygen, FBI and airline officials said. FBI spokesman Tom Simon in Honolulu told The Associated Press on Sunday night that the boy was questioned by the FBI after being discovered on the tarmac at the Maui airport with no identification.
By OSKAR GARCIA and MARTHA MENDOZA Associated Press
Posted 46 minutes ago
By STEVEN DUBOIS Associated Press
Posted 1 hour ago
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