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Heat Wave Could Damage Crops, Impact Prices For Local Produce

AQUEBOGUE, N.Y. (CBSNewYork) -- The intense heat and drought-like conditions are wreaking havoc on some farms on Long Island.

As CBS 2's Jennifer McLogan reported Tuesday, the heat wave has already damaged some crops and there is concern the extended extreme heat could have a more long-term effect on crops, harvest and prices.

On the North Fork of Long Island, crops at Schmitt's Farm were sizzling in the sun on Tuesday.

Corn is at a vulnerable pollination point in its development and fields could be lost to the extreme heat, McLogan reported.

Water is being pumped day and night on the crops in hopes of keeping fragile greens alive and berries from turning to mush.

"The crops, they lay right down," farmer Phil Schmitt told McLogan. "And wilt, even with irrigation. When the soil temperature reaches 90 or 100 degrees, the soil can actually be hotter than the air."

The Schmitts have been farming on the East End of Long Island since the 1840s.

This has been an especially tough growing year, McLogan reported.

The spring growing season was stunted due to cool temperatures and rain, and now a week-long unrelenting burst of humid heat is taxing fields and farm stands across the East End.

"You go out and can't even get a breath because it's so humid," Calverton resident Ruth Hendrickson told McLogan. "[The produce is] not getting any oxygen either. They're getting soft, wilted, brown."

Tomatoes are getting sunburned and potatoes are growing too early, too fast, McLogan reported.

In the 350th year of the Wells Homestead in Aquebogue, fields of asparagus are turning to seed.

"When we get up into the 90s, my asparagus crop doesn't keep regenerating itself. It almost goes dormant," farmer Lyle Wells told McLogan.

Pests and bacterial wilt can spread across fields with days of intense heat. Watermelon and cantaloupe could burst in the heat and table grapes can turn to raisins. But wineries like heat since the sun brings out the sugars on vines.

"Every one of us, we eat. And every consumer is going to be affected," Joseph Gergela with the Long Island Farm Bureau told McLogan.

The Long Island Farm Bureau said it will know within weeks the impact the current heat will have on harvests and on prices at the store.

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