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Labor Day Heat Wave Affects Quality and Supply

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Last week we braced ourselves for an intense heat wave over the weekend and into Labor Day week. Temperatures reached over 110 degrees in many growing regions including Salinas Valley and Bakersfield. The heat affects our food production, putting not only the plants and fruit at risk but the people harvesting our food. Once the temperature reaches 90-95 degrees it is too hot to be in the field picking and workers need to 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, however if it gets too hot 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. For many plants like tomatoes, new fruit will not set in high heat conditions.  The flowers will not pollinate leading to gaps in production down the road. 

What can you expect?

*Expect to see a little sunburn on some lettuce varieties.  Romaine and Butter lettuce will show the worst damage with browning around the top of the leaves.  Prices will continue to rise on lettuce, broccoli, cauliflower, iceberg, sweet baby broccoli amongst others. 

*Seedless watermelons bins are almost finished for the season until Mexico starts by mid- October.  The mini seedless were another victim of the excessive heat with 6ct to 9ct affected the most by the heat, leaving 11ct fruit in good supply.

* We are not sure to what extent strawberries were cooked by the heat. Volume will most likely tighten up this week.

* Excessive heat over the last month has stressed out the valencia orange trees and caused the fruit to re-green and develop a green cast.  In order to protect themselves, the fruit trees begin the photosynthesis process and transfer energy in the form of nutrients from the fruit back into the tree.  The condition of the fruit is also affected making the oranges weaker and shortening their shelf life.  Re-greening is a common physiological process that has affected our central valley growers harder than anticipated. We will be very tight on valencias and will see more choice than fancy.

* Several herb growers are reporting severe damage to crops, in particular basil, from the heat. The plants need a recovery period of at least 7-10 days, depending on crop damage it could be longer. 

*Snap Peas gapping for a week to two weeks as they recover from the heat and sunburn.

*Artichokes open to flower in the heat.  Production has been reduced 50%. 

*Zucchini grew too fast because of the heat and had to be pulled off the plant. Supply will tighten up.

* Growers are reporting sunburn on hot pepper plants as well as tomato plants. Habaneros and cayenne will hopefully be back in a week. 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.

It is unknown the extent of the damage from the heat but there is a good chance we will see shortages in production down the road.  We will continue to update you as we know more.

Burnt Romaine Lettuce Salinas Valley

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