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Wet fields force farmers to delay planting

Ellen Abbott
Dan Palladino looks over his Pompey farm.

This year’s soggy spring has farmers in central New York scrambling. Many farms are two weeks behind in their planting schedules.

On a clear day, there’s quite a vista from farmer Dan Palladino’s hilltop farm in the town of Pompey.

"You can see all the way to Sodus, and Chimney Bluffs there. Over there is Oneida Lake, and over there are the foothills of the Adirondacks, and you can see Canastota," Palladino said, describing the view.

But there haven’t been too many of those clear days this rain-soaked spring. And it’s messing up more than the view.

"Since really the end of March through April, we’ve consistently fallen two weeks behind, from plowing to planting small grains, and now on to corn, soybeans and those crops," he said.

Palladino also says he is still planting corn, and hasn’t started planting soybeans yet. He’s lucky, because he just bought a piece of machinery that plants 12 rows at a time instead of six, but he says it makes him sick to see it sit idle on a rainy day.

"It’s not ideal, it’s not what we typically have. It may ferret itself out, if we get a nice run of weather. But here we are with another five days of rain in the forecast except for Saturday, so we’re going to be in the same boat for a while,” Palladino said.

He admits he doesn’t have it as bad as smaller farmers that don’t have such sophisticated equipment, or some North Country farmers who see swathes of their fields underwater. But even high up in the hills of Southern Onondaga County, natural drainage can’t handle all the rain.

"You see out there, those fields never had wet spots, and it’s about a three-acre wet spot in the middle of that field that I wasn’t able to plant wheat in. So there are a lot of spots like that where you can’t even get in to certain areas that are low lying.”

Palladino says too much rain doesn’t just shorten the season, it also creates difficulties with weeds, and keeping fertilizer in the soil.

“Sometimes with this kind of a wet year, the fertilizer in the ground -- whether it’s manure or chemical fertilizer -- they will leach out because of the high moisture content. So you’ll struggle keeping the fertility there,” Palladino said.

And he worries about long-term forecasts that predict a wet August.

"Farmers are half weathermen and half farmers, because there’s nothing you can do to control the weather and it controls everything you do as a farmer.”

Ellen produces news reports and features related to events that occur in the greater Syracuse area and throughout Onondaga County. Her reports are heard regularly in regional updates in Morning Edition and All Things Considered.