Plowing the field

When too much rain falls on farm fields, crops can rot, and the soil can wash away. But with too little rain, the plants can wilt. In the northeast U.S., both of these extremes are becoming more common.

For example, in 2018, Pennsylvania had its wettest summer on record.

“And then at the same time, in September, it was like drought conditions in Vermont and parts of Maine,” says Alissa White of the University of Vermont. “We’re just expected to see more of that.”

White led a survey of almost 200 fruit and vegetable growers about how they’re adapting to these extreme weather events.

She says many are now planting cover crops, which can reduce erosion and help the soil hold more water. Others are experimenting with new plant varieties or tilling the soil less.

“Farmers are using a lot of different strategies,” she says.

Yet the majority of growers still feel unprepared for the increasingly extreme weather. Many say they do not have the technical skills or the financial resources to adapt.

So White says that farmers need education, technical assistance, and financial support as they work to keep their crops – and businesses – growing.

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Reporting credit: Sarah Kennedy/ChavoBart Digital Media.

Topics: Food & Agriculture