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PRO*ACT Crop Update: April 24

By
Tim Lynch

With the transition complete, most of the row crop production will move to the coastal valleys — Oxnard, Santa Maria and Salinas — of California through the fall. Spring weather patterns continue to challenge growers with the cool moist conditions. 

imageA series of cool, low-pressure systems are forecast to continue the roller coaster of temperatures typical of spring. These systems will bring a deep marine layer along with drizzle and gusty winds to the coastal valleys into early May. The cool, moist conditions provide ample opportunity for mold, mildew and disease pressure to thrive and enter the fields. 

Sclerotinia, bottom rot and mildew are impacting the Iceberg production with some pockets of anthracnose also reported. Anthracnose is a soilborne pathogen favored by cool, wet periods and can survive for long periods in the soil. The pathogen spreads when rain or sprinkler droplets splash spores from infected plants onto surrounding fields carried by the winds. Cool temperatures are required for high spore production and the disease is primarily a problem in the early spring.  

Shippers are seeing this disease across the valley in current and upcoming acreage impacting production, especially in the Romaine stands. Rough estimates indicate up to 20 percent of the Romaine acreage in the Salinas Valley may be impacted by the fungus.

imageThe cool temperatures will continue to hinder growth rates of the various crops. This along with the current disease pressure impacting yields will keep lettuce supplies on the lighter side for the near term at a minimum. Early production continues to show smaller head sizes with less solidity/density contributing to lighter carton weights. 

Growers reaching for supplies are entering these stands early to meet current demand, leaving less available acreage as harvests look to gain momentum. This may lead to some supply shortages in Romaine and cauliflower moving forward.

These temperature variations can also lead to physiological changes in lettuce plants and disrupt the developmental process impacting quality and shelf life. Processed items will likely continue to see an increase in bruising, discoloration and breakdown showing up in the bag affecting quality and shelf life. 

Long-range forecasts continue to bring in cool systems through April with the possibility of a couple more wet systems in early May. This will not be beneficial to overall crop growth rates, quality and supplies.

With over 30 years in the produce industry, Tim Lynch started as an inspector and advanced into quality control and food safety. Beyond work, he's an avid sports fan, relishing in activities like boating, fishing, and diving. Lynch attended Cal Poly SLO before making Marina his home since 1994.

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