California Pumpkin Crops Threatened by Record Heat

Posted: September 16, 2022 1:39 pm

Is your fall tradition of carving pumpkins in danger? Extreme heat throughout the summer and well into September for much of the West has threatened the current crop of pumpkins.

Farmers in California Work to Save Pumpkin Harvest After Extreme Heat

Farmers in the region are working hard to save the crop so that families can continue to enjoy the beloved Halloween tradition of carving a jack-o-lantern and decorating the front porch with festive pumpkins. These gourds are known for their sensitivity to extreme heat. In fact, pumpkins can actually be sunburned, turning their skins and insides into mush as they deteriorate in the hot sun.

A late summer heat wave gripped the West Coast in early September, threatening the health of many crops, including pumpkins. The mercury hit 110 degrees last week in San Jose, forcing farmers to take extra precautions to protect the gourds from the heat.

While much of the West has been dealing with this last burst of heat, the interior Bay Area and the Central Valley have been particularly hot. In addition to the reading of 110 degrees, San Jose saw eight days of temperatures well above average to start September.

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Lessons Learned in 2021 Guiding Farmers Leading Up to Harvest

The farmers are leaning on the lessons that they learned during the heat of 2021 to save the pumpkin crops this year. For instance, farmers are changing the soil composition in an effort to supply more nutrients to the delicate pumpkins. This soil adjustment also allows the leaves to serve as a shield from the heat, providing shade to the pumpkins from the searing sun.

After suffering mass losses of the pumpkin crops last year because of the heat, many farmers were not taking any chances of the 2022 harvest. This means that they got an early start in ensuring that the crops had plenty of water and fertilizer during the beginning growing stages. By providing an extra dose of protection, farmers have been hopeful that their early efforts will be rewarded with a better harvest this year.

Experts are crediting the early action for leaving the crops in better shape than they would have been in had nothing preventative been done in the initial stages of the growing season. The good news is that temperatures in this part of the state are forecast to be more moderate in the coming days. As a result, farmers are predicting that there should be enough pumpkins to go around this year.

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