2018 Weather & Crop Report
By Adam Calder, Produce Manager
There have recently been some extreme weather events that have effected major agricultural areas in the western and southern United States. Will the wildfires in California or the freezing temperatures in Florida have any negative impacts on the fruits and vegetables available from those areas? That remains yet to be seen.
According to an article in The Packer by Tom Karst, the December wildfires in Ventura County, California have caused more than $25 million in damages from lost farm machines, irrigation equipment, buildings and crops. More than 10,000 acres of cropland and 60,000 acres of range land were burned and avocados growers in particular had heavy damages and lost 4,000 tons of production capability. More damage may yet unfold this spring, as there is no guarantee the avocado trees that survived are healthy enough to bloom.
Other citrus and fruit growers in the region have also collectively suffered an additional $10 million in damages, and vegetable growers as a group have lost a total of approximately $5 million.
As for the recent bomb cyclone that battered the eastern and southern United States with an intense and powerful blizzard, those negative effects do not appear to be as bad for fruit and vegetable growers in those regions.
Citrus growers in particular seemed to have skirted the worst of the cold weather. In another article by Karst, farmers in Florida reported that temperatures did drop into the high twenties, but did not dip low enough for long enough to harm the crops. Temperatures must remain below 28 degrees for six hours before the fruit is damaged. Cold but not freezing weather can actually improve the flavor of citrus and cause the rind to harden off a bit and give the fruit a little extra shelf life.
In Texas, no problems were reported and it appears citrus production and harvesting in that state is on track for this time of year.
According to another article in The Packer by Ashley Nickle, the cold weather might actually be helpful for some vegetable growers in Georgia. Two mild winters in a row have caused a spike in the whitefly population. Whiteflies can cause severe damage to squash, eggplants, cucumbers, beans, peas and avocados. Whiteflies can easily infest and overwhelm a crop, and treating them with pesticides is an expensive endeavor which may not even rid the crop of the infestation due to the large number of eggs the flies produce. The best hope to control the infestations is for the cold weather to eliminate them naturally.
So what does all of this mean for you? There might be an increase in avocado prices over the next few months as the damage from the wildfires becomes fully evident. We should expect to see normal amounts of citrus from Florida and Texas for the remainder of the winter, and the prices on those fruits should remain steady. Since we do not get a large amount of organic produce from Georgia, we likely won’t see any changes in the availability or pricing on the vegetables being effected by the whitefly infestations in that state.