With New York experiencing high levels of poor air quality this week, coupled with dry weather, one local farmer said the hazy conditions could cause problems for her early crops.  

Kara Atwood, a farmer at Kubecka Farms in Kirkville, said the smoke is exacerbating the drought they are already facing.  

“It is reducing plant growth from a slow crawl to a complete standstill,” she said. “This is almost like a one-two punch to early crops.”  

Atwood said with the harshness of the dry soil, recent high temperatures, and now the reduction in photosynthesis due to chlorophyll damage and impeded movement of carbon dioxide from the smoke, their early yield harvest will be much less than they hoped.  

“We are uncertain as to what other effects this might have moving further into the growing season, but the likelihood of further issues continues to increase the longer this smoke is here,” Atwood said.  

Kubecka Farms, owned by Jeff Kubecka, produces a variety of crops including sweet corn, peppers, strawberries, onions and tomatoes.

A photo of the fields at Kubecka Farms. (Courtesy of Kara Atwood)


For produce that hasn’t started to grow, however, the worry is less, said Justine Vanden Heuvel, who studies grapes and is a professor in the horticulture department at Cornell University.

“The big worry in situations like this is smoke taint, which is basically when certain compounds are absorbed by the skin of the grape and then they’re released at fermentation,” she said. “It results in wines that taste burnt or smokey or ashy.”  

At this point, the grapes are in the flowering stage, Vanden Heuvel said.  

“To our knowledge, flowers don’t absorb those aromas, so there is no reason to think it would impact the grapes,” she said.  

However, Vanden Heuvel said if this were to happen in August when grapes begin to ripen, it would be really concerning.  

Vanden Heuvel said the biggest worry is for people working in the vineyards.  

“There’s a lot to do in the vineyard right now and people need to be working outside to do it, but they need to make sure they’re properly protecting themselves,” she said.