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Extreme Heat Wave and Rain Storms Sweep Through California

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A heat wave continues to sweep through California this week with temperatures reaching well over 100 degrees in many growing regions. The heat affects our food production, putting not only the plants and fruit at risk but the people harvesting our food. Once the temperatures reach 90-95 degrees it is too hot to be in the field picking and workers will be sent home. Hot days and fewer hours to pick will affect supply and quality across various commodities.

Some summer fruits such as watermelon, tomatoes and melons like the heat but if it gets past 110 degrees for an extended period of time, the plants become stressed, interrupting its production cycle, slowing down the ripening process and preventing necessary nutrients from reaching the plant. 

We interviewed Patrick Johnston from Dwelley Farms in Brentwood early this morning for a crop update. Temperatures were as high as 109 over the weekend in Brentwood and forecast to be at least 100 for the next 10 days.  Dwelley workers are out in the fields typically 3am-9am during the hot months harvesting corn by big flood lights on the harvest rig, and beans and zucchini by headlamps.  Patrick says that corn is pretty heat resistant but pest pressure during the hot months continues to be a problem.  Every single ear of corn that is sent to Earl’s is checked for the corn earworm. Until the pest pressure abates we will continue to see a limited amount of bi-color, white and yellow corn. Specialty beans such as romano and yellow wax beans most likely will be out through the weekend.   Summer squash varietals may see a reduction in yield as the plants slow down due to heat. There are also unforeseen difficulties when the temperatures exceeds 100 plus for multiple days. Beans are just one example- weeks down the road you run the risk that bean (flower) bloom will either dry up and fall off or the pin bean starts to get pushed out of the plant only to shrivel up and never turn into a bean. 

Victor Cortes from La Granjita in Watsonville reported burn on hot pepper plants as well as tomato plants. The tomatoes that were cooked will need to be pulled off the vine and composted.  The good news is that the sunburned pepper and tomato plants will recover.

Tomatoes burned on the vine

Rogelio Ponce from Sun Valley Farms in the Pajaro Valley relayed that many of their strawberries were cooked by the heat, but they will be back in the field harvesting  this week.  Tomatero has fields that are right on the coast and were not affected by the heat as badly as others.  Expect strawberry volume to tighten up this week.

We will have more crop updates as the effects of the heat wave become more apparent. This is a reminder to be mindful of the changes in the weather when shopping for produce throughout the season and to recognize the hard work and effort of our farmers.

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