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Heavy Snow Causes Localized Damage To Eastern Plains Crops

Courtesy Rocky Ford Growers Association
It's unclear how many cantaloupe crops were damaged from the weekend's snowstorm. The fields have been too muddy for farmers to get a full accounting.

Farmers across the Great Plains are in their fields trying to gauge the damage from this weekend’s snowstorm. So far, the results are mixed.

The storm’s timing made it particularly destructive for wheat growers across the Great Plains. But it wasn’t the cold temperatures that caused the most damage: it was weight. The snow was so heavy it snapped wheat stalks in half. It’s still unclear exactly how many wheat acres were lost.

The news was better for melon growers, though muddy fields have kept some farmers from getting a full scope of the potential damage.

Few cantaloupe and watermelon plants had started to sprout by the time the storm moved through, meaning they were safe from freezing temperatures. Still, some growers will likely have to replant portions of their crop, which could slightly lessen the amount of Rocky Ford cantaloupe this year, or push back harvest.

Late season snow and frost is a part of life for many farmers and ranchers on Colorado’s eastern plains, and they have adapted to it. While this storm brought heavy, sometime damaging snow to the region, it will also act as an infusion of moisture in an area currently classified as both “abnormally dry” and in moderate drought in the latest Drought Monitor from Nebraska’s National Drought Mitigation Center.

Brian Knapp, a melon and vegetable grower near Rocky Ford, says he’ll take the added precipitation, even if it means a small amount of crop damage.

“With how long the growing season is,” Knapp says, a melon grower near Rocky Ford, “we could end up with something way worse than this storm.”

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