Beset this year first by a snowcover-less January freeze that killed off many winter crops, now too much precipitation, including unseasonal hailstorms, is threatening this summer’s plantings. Moreover, such conditions only make it harder to keep the crops free of pests and infections.
According to Ilmārs Pētersons, owner of Baltiņi, one of the biggest farming operations near Bauska, the weather has been one rollercoaster ride after another this year. “First we had to resow all our winter crops, kept our hopes on the veggies. Then the spring looked promising, but then it got too dry, and now again it’s just soaked,” he told Latvian Public Television news.
The squash are blossoming handsomely, but temperatures have been too low for them to take up much growth yet. The onion patch was battered by hail the other day, leaving gashes that quickly attracted mildew in all the moistness.
“The hail just chopped ‘em up, leaving these white blotches which just get bigger because the humidity spreads the mildew disease,” the farmer explained.
The Agricultural Consulting Center says these conditions are conducive to all kinds of sicknesses and pests, but especially hard on warmth-loving vegetables.
“Field tomatoes are having a hard time. Cucumbers and squash prices are pretty high. One can hardly find a survivor or two amongst the ones growing out in the fields. Well, they’ve survived, but they aren’t producing,” explains Dace Drošprāte, the Agriculture Ministry’s public service consultant for Jelgava region.
Cabbage plants have been growing best this summer, but are also starting to have enough of all the moisture. Hopes for earnings from cabbage patches pale in the face of stiff competition from Polish growers, where conditions have been far more favorable.
How the season ends will remain a mystery until fall, but for now vegetable growers are really waiting for the rains to stop and the summer swelter to finally begin.