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Lack of rain impacting Maine crops

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Farmers across the state are looking to the skies in hopes that more rain will help their crops of blueberries, cranberries and potatoes.

Thus far, a lack of rainfall has impacted crops in some parts of the state, according to area growers. A late frost in June also hampered cranberry growers in Washington County.

In June, according to the National Weather Service in Gray, southern Maine received 3.29 inches of precipitation below normal for the year. Portland usually has received 22.66 inches of rain for the year by that time, but by June, it had only received 19.37 inches. In Aroostook County, May finished with below normal precipitation, while June finished with below average temperatures and varied amounts of rainfall.

In Presque Isle, Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board, said in a recent interview that the state’s potato growers could “definitely” use more rain to accelerate the growth of the 52,000 acres of spuds that were planted across the state.

“The crops need more water,” said Flannery. “It is a lot drier in some areas than in others. It is not to the point yet that we are terribly concerned about the crop, but we definitely need some rain.”

Everett Worcester and his wife, Lee, operate Worcester’s Wild Blueberries in Orneville Township in Piscataquis County. He said that their 35 acre blueberry crop is doing “OK,” but that the lack of rain is taking a toll.

“We definitely need a good dose of water in the next week or two,” he said. “But I also worry about the potential of severe storms, the ones that bring torrential downpours and hail. Those can be very destructive to the crops, too, so you have to watch out.”

Charles Armstrong, cranberry professional at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension Service, provides integrated pest management education and on-site assistance to Maine’s cranberry growers. He said on Monday that a late frost in June impacted some growers, especially in Washington County.

“Late on the evening of June 3 and into the early morning of June 4, temperatures got down to 30 degrees in Houlton and they were even colder in Columbia Falls,” he said. “A cluster of growers had a fair amount of frost injury, so the plantings there don’t look like they will bloom very much this season.”

Alden Mingo, owner of Mingo’s Products in Calais, said on Monday that his crop growth of cranberries and blueberries is slow this year after a late spring and the current dry weather. He also said that the frost damaged some of the 10 acres of cranberries.

“We continue to use irrigation, but the lack of rain has been impacting us,” said Mingo. “We need more water. It has just been a dry summer.”

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