Vermont drought strangling crops, experts say

JAMESTOWN, Vt. —A dry start to Vermont’s 2018 agriculture season means drought conditions and heat spells for farmers in the northeast corner of the state. The dryness in early October was bad enough that rain was recorded just four days later at Lake Champlain.

The rainfall was good news for irrigation, but off-and-on heat threatens to diminish crop yields as of late November.

The state Department of Agriculture, Markets and Food had reports of near-record levels of frost damage in some areas. One farmer in Manchester reported a burned corn yield and irrigation had to be scaled back for most crops.

Frost will freeze plant buds and foliage later this winter and spring. Melting snow and rain later in spring will shed new seed heads on plants and cause more harm.

Vermont experts say this drought is no climate change anomaly, but a recurrence of long-term weather patterns. In the Northeast, average temperatures have risen by nearly 3 degrees Fahrenheit from 1984 to 2017, while water availability has been trimmed.

Small potatoes and potatoes-yugy, an aromatic variety of leafy greens, have been in high demand, helped by recent drought conditions.

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