Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Killing Heat 1: CROPS

Today the temperature went to 107° F on the farm. The US Weather Service predicts that heat wave may continue on for two more weeks, despite earlier forecasts that temperatures would drop to the 70s and 80s.

Heat as we have had in this last week in July causes high temperature stress. This is not only for us, but also for our animals, the wild animals, and our crops. Brad waters overtime not only to give the crops water, but also to cool the soil. When the soil is over 90° F, plants begin to suffer at 90° F and 98° F plants begin to die. The leaves of more mature plants are adversely affected at 95° F, but if cooled or not left at that temperature for more than a few hours, the plants, while damaged, should survive and fruit. High temperatures on young plants results in stunted growth. This means that we have to postpone transplanting, which we do all season long, because the plants would have a slim chance of surviving. In specific terms, we have not transplanted the pumpkins because it has been too hot for three weeks.

Because we cool our plants with water, some varieties will bolt. Leafy greens are at the greatest risk of bolting. When plants bolt, they are developing the flowers that would eventually develop into seeds if we let them. Bolting is caused by stress, such as these high temperatures, because the plants are in danger of dying before reproducing themselves. While we deal with some bolting during the season, high temperatures trigger bolting in about every plant grown for its leaves, including basil, bok choy, cabbage, chard, cilantro, kale, lettuce, spinach, and many other vegetables we grow.

Plants such as beans, beets, carrots, cucumbers, kohlrabi, radishes, the squash, and many others may not produce as much as they would have otherwise.
Right now we are praying for rain and cooler summer temperatures.

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