Strawberry Season on Track Despite Dry Weather

Despite this week’s rain, the dry weather over the past month has brought increasing concerns about possible impacts on early crops like strawberries, whose season usually begins in about a month. But according to Joe Czajkowski who grows about 20 acres of strawberries in North Hadley, Massachusetts, there are there are some up sides to the dryness. 

“It’s actually not a bad thing because you don’t get as many diseases if it’s dry. You don’t get as many, you know, as many problems. So this…weather where we’ve been able to manage the water has actually been helpful and it should have a nice crop. The pollination on the blossoms has been nice. Everything….is looking surprisingly good.”

Czajkowski adds area farmers have been using systems to protect their crop from frost, to irrigate plants during the day. Sonia Schloeman, a fruit specialist with UMass-Extension, concurs. She sees little potential for damage to the strawberry crop, compared with last year, when warm weather brought an early season, followed by a prolonged frost. 

“Most of our farmers are pretty prepared for whatever sort of weather they’re going to be having, because by now they’ve probably seen just about everything. So they are pretty good at dealing with things like this and it means a lot of work. If you’re having to irrigate at this time of year, it means a lot of time spent moving irrigation pipe around. But it’s certainly worth it when it means saving their crops.”

According to the USDA, Massachusetts strawberry farmers generated more than $3.5 million in sales in 2012. The harvest in New England accounted for nearly $17 million last year.