TERRE HAUTE —
From fireworks to sweet corn, the Summer of 2012 could be a fizzle if the sky won’t even drizzle.
That was the talk Saturday morning, as shoppers milled about the Downtown Terre Haute Farmers Market off North Ninth Street and Wabash Avenue. Vendors said the drought is taking its toll.
“It’s killing us,” said Chris Gambill, Terre Haute attorney and owner of Heron Bay Farms. “Everything is up and in a holding pattern,” he said. He’s never irrigated his plots before but is now considering it. “Things aren’t dying yet, but they’re not growing.”
Gambill had Polish radishes on display next to duck and chicken eggs that morning. But the yields on his southern Vigo County plots aren’t what he’d like them to be.
In discussing the situation with a 95-year-old farmer, Gambill said his friend recalled the last June he’d seen this dry was in the 1930s amid the Great Dust Bowl. The ground, he said, is so dry that yields vary even within the same square foot depending on what little moisture is present.
“So I have all these staggered germinations in the same row,” he said of his radishes in particular.
Ray Edwards, owner of Arrowhead Family Farm near St. Mary-of-the-Woods, said he’s watering his produce with the well on his property, but at some point he might have to haul in water.
“We need rain really bad. I water as much as I can,” he said, standing behind a table of zucchini and cucumbers for sale. “Right now it’s hard to say what percentage of the yields will be affected.”
Sunday afternoon, the Indiana Department of Homeland Security reported 54 of the state’s 92 counties had some form of burn ban in place, and farmers groaned amid the silence that should be full of crackling corn growth.
Marc Dahmer, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Indianapolis, said the next best chance for rain will come next weekend, but there’s not much confidence in those models at present.
“The issue is moisture. We just don’t have a lot of moisture to work with,” he said, explaining fronts continue to move through the area but can’t seem to generate more than a trace amount of precipitation.
June’s precipitation through Sunday remained at the 0.23 of an inch mark, where it’s been for days. Terre Haute’s precipitation year-to-date remained at 12.53 inches, considerably less than the normal amount of 21.91 inches, Dahmer reported.
Referencing the U.S. Drought Monitor, which has placed 80 percent of Indiana and 70 percent of Illinois in the drought zone, Dahmer said states from Arkansas to Kentucky are likewise being impacted. Northern states seem to be faring better.
“The heat’s definitely going to be with us this week, especially mid-week and afterwards,” he said, noting temperatures should fall to the low 80s today and tomorrow, but rise to 90 Wednesday and the upper 90s Thursday.
J.D. Kessler, deputy director of the Vigo County Emergency Management Agency, said Vigo County’s burn ban remains in place through Friday. While fireworks aren’t banned by the order, residents are strongly advised to be cautious with their use.
“My only thing to tell people is to use good judgment and caution during this period because of the weather,” he said.
Meanwhile, agriculture experts continue to track the potential impact on yields. According to a crop report issued by Purdue University, only 37 percent of this season’s Indiana corn crop was rated good to excellent as of June 17.
And while many farmers recall the drought that spanned 1987 to 1989, the Purdue report observed that by June 17, 1988, less than 5 percent of the corn crop was listed as good to excellent. Yields that year, according to the report, ended 31 percent below the predicted trend.
The result this growing season will hinge on when the rains return, and according to the Indiana State Climate Office at Purdue, the outlook for July is above-normal temperatures matched with below-normal precipitation. A return to normal precipitation isn’t expected until late July or early August, according to that report.
Dan Egle, a Purdue plant pathologist based at the university’s agriculture center north of Vincennes, said the upside is that farmers with irrigation systems in place should have a very fine year.
“But the people who aren’t irrigated are in some trouble, I think,” he said.
Egle specializes in melons, which are raised in abundance amid the sandier soils of the state’s southwestern counties. Hoosier farmers plant about 8,000 acres of watermelons each year, expecting yields between 40,000 and 45,000 pounds per acre.
“The lion’s share of that’s down here,” he said, referencing a stretch including Sullivan, Daviess, Knox, Gibson and Posey counties. And all of those counties happen to be located in the middle of the U.S. Drought Monitor’s severe zone.
Only about half of the melon growers in that region irrigate, he said, and those farms are looking at a great crop. The “silver lining” to this year’s drought is a significant reduction in fungus and pests, he said, explaining plant disease such as gummy stem blight and anthracnose don’t fare well in the dry heat. This means farmers can afford to skimp a bit on expensive fungicides, which can mean increasing their profits.
“It wouldn’t be unusual to spend $50 an acre for one application of fungicide,” he said. “And it’s not unusual to have 100 acres, and it’s not unusual to spray eight times a year.”
Egle said the cost of inputs to grow one acre of melons is roughly $2,500, and all that has to be in the ground long before any revenue is generated.
The cost and availability of irrigation systems can be prohibitive for many, he said. The issue isn’t limited to the price of drip tape and center pivots. If a farmer rents his ground, Egle said, the decision is shared with the landlord, who would have to pay for a sufficient well to be drilled.
“I don’t think the consumer will notice anything, though,” he said, citing the number of other states that produce melons. Melons are relatively cheap, and so the price increase associated with lower local supply shouldn’t be prohibitive, he said.
But that won’t do much for local farmers, who look to the sky in hopes of more than the sound of fireworks’ rumble.
Brian Boyce can be reached at 812-231-4253 or email@example.com.
Dry crops failing, concerns growing
TERRE HAUTE —
From fireworks to sweet corn, the Summer of 2012 could be a fizzle if the sky won’t even drizzle.
- Local & Bistate
Woman condemned for killing at age 15 freed from Rockville prison
INDIANAPOLIS — A woman who was sentenced to death at age 16 for taking part in the torture and murder of a 78-year-old bible studies teacher was released from an Indiana prison today after growing to middle age behind bars.
UPDATE: All lanes of I-70 now open
All lanes of Interstate 70 in Vigo County are now open — as of 4:15 p.m. — after multiple crashes shut down the eastbound lanes temporarily this afternoon.
Quinn signs into law tough fracking regulations
CHICAGO — Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn signed legislation giving the state the nation’s strictest regulations for high-volume oil and gas drilling.
BREAKING: Arrest made in Archer homicide
A Terre Haute man has been arrested and charged with felony murder and altering the scene of a death in the homicide of his wife, Kayla Herchelroath Archer.
Frye Road Overpass work to restrict lanes on I-70
VIGO COUNTY, Ind. – The Indiana Department of Transportation announces the Frye Road Overpass construction will restrict the left lane on Interstate 70 between the 13- and 14-mile marker, beginning June 17. This lane restriction will be in effect for 24 hours a day for about two weeks.
Vigo County Jail Log: June 17, 2013
The following individuals were booked into the Vigo County Jail by area law enforcement on Friday, Saturday and Sunday, based on jail records.
Fathers take time out to spend quality time with children, grandchildren
A big, circular white cloud rose up through the tall atrium as Mike Woods held his 4-year son, Nathan, Sunday at the Terre Haute Children’s Museum.
On Friday, hit the park and raise funds for skateboarders
The On-board United Initiative — O.U.I. for short — has scheduled an all-ages fundraising event Friday in honor of national Go Skateboarding Day.
STATE OF THE STATEHOUSE: Sentencing law could benefit juveniles
Monica Foster is a longtime public defender who’s been pushing uphill in the legal system for a long time. So, when she says the General Assembly is making progress protecting the rights of the disenfranchised, it’s worth stopping to listen to her.
Mastering the art of Gardening
The Wabash Valley Master Gardeners group gathered over the weekend to marvel at each other’s gardens on its annual garden tour. The event was a chance for master gardeners to showcase their labor of love, meanwhile sharing stories about their plants.
RESTAURANT INSPECTIONS: June 17, 2013
The Vigo County Health Department inspected the following food establishments May 28-31:
Lawn mower fire destroys barn
A lawn mower that caught fire was cited as the cause of a fire that destroyed a single story barn Sunday in the 2000 block of North Chamberlain Street, said Harold Osborn, assistant fire chief of the Lost Creek Township Fire Department.
Wabash Valley residents vie for spot on Wheel of Fortune
Ellen Fujawa of Zionsville wants to be on the popular syndicated Wheel of Fortune game show.
No ID yet on body found in Rosedale home
Sheriff Mike Eslinger said his department is waiting to obtain an immediate family’s confirmation of a woman found dead in a home in the 2900 block of West Rosehill Lane.
Vigo School Corp. eliminating bus transportation for middle school sports teams
The Vigo County School Corp. will no longer provide school bus transportation for middle school athletic events, starting with the 2013-14 school year.
B.J. RILEY: Fathers are an inspiring figure
Ever since I can remember, I wanted to be a salesman. In grade school, I was so excited about selling candy bars or candles or whatever the chosen product.
‘24/7 Dad’ program focuses on key fathering characteristics
Terre Haute resident Aaron Poarch grew up without a father. His stepfather died when he was a teenager and just quite recently met his biological father.
Blues mosaic fundraiser to benefit Boys & Girls Club
A photographic mosaic, featuring images of the Blues at the Crossroads Festival from 2004 to 2012, was unveiled Saturday as part of a fundraiser to benefit the Terre Haute Boys and Girls Club.
Meeting June 18 to discuss cleanup of former Coke, Carbon site
The public can learn more about plans to clean up the former Terre Haute Coke and Carbon brownfield site Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. at the Booker T. Washington Community Center
South Vigo Jets teams raising money for trip
The Terre Haute South Vigo Jets Varsity A and Junior Varsity B teams have qualified for national competition and are working to raise funds to help cover expenses.
United in Service: 300 volunteers take part in United Way’s Day of Action
As a graphic designer for Clabber Girl, Denise Turner usually sits in front of the computer most of the week. But as a volunteer on Friday’s Day of Action, she was outdoors spreading mulch at a community garden.
Police investigating Rosedale homicide
Parke County authorities are investigating a homicide at Rosedale.
Sheriff Mike Eslinger confirmed Friday afternoon that police had been called to a home in the 2900 block of West Rosehill Lane on a report of a dead person.
Homicide suspect’s father: ‘I am so sorry’
The father of a Jasonville man charged with murder broke down in tears following his son’s appearance in Greene Superior Court on Friday morning.
African Methodist Episcopal Church reaches out to youth through Sunday School
How to make church relevant for today’s young people is a challenge that some dedicated pastors and youth ministers are willingly taking on this weekend in Terre Haute.
National Road interpretive panel to be dedicated Monday
Vigo County’s first National Road interpretive panel will be dedicated Monday at a restored historic gasoline station cottage near Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology’s Art Nehf Baseball Stadium.
Vigo County YMCA celebrates its one-year anniversary
The Vigo County YMCA is celebrating its one-year anniversary today offering the public free use of the facility and classes.
ISU trustees focusing on retention, grad rates
Improved student retention and graduation rates are a university-wide responsibility, Indiana State University trustees emphasized during Friday’s meeting.
TH Children’s Museum offers Father’s Day special
The Terre Haute Children’s Museum is celebrating dads by giving them free admission to the museum on Father’s Day, which is Sunday.
Homeowner interrupts intended burglary, police say
A homeowner likely interrupted an intended burglary early Friday, but in the process, the homeowner was attacked and injured by the suspect.
Linton man in stable condition after stabbing
A Linton man is recovering from a stab wound received in an altercation late Wednesday.
- More Local & Bistate Headlines
- Woman condemned for killing at age 15 freed from Rockville prison