Ending Vegetable and Fruit Notes for the 2008 Season

Gordon Johnson, Extension Ag Agent, Kent Co.; gcjohn@udel.edu

Some observations from the 2008 vegetable and fruit season for this last Weekly Crop Update for 2008:

● Strawberry season was extended this year due to the cooler May weather. We did not get our first 90 degree weather until June 7. Both matted row and plasticulture systems got a later start on harvest but were extended into June. The nor’easter in mid-May did affect fruit quality for a week period.

● Asparagus also did well in 2008 with constant, quality harvest with the cooler weather.

● Early peas had very good yields due to the cooler weather. Several days of 90 degree weather the second week in June caused some mid season and later plantings to mature together but, in general, growers were pleased with pea yields.

● Potato growers had the perfect storm of a good growing season and exceptional prices. This was the most profitable season in recent history. The heat in mid-June did reduce tuber bulking and caused premature decline in some early varieties, resulting in a higher percentage of small tubers, but the prices more than compensated. There were more acres of non-irrigated potatoes planted this year and digging was delayed due to dry soil conditions in August.

● Processing sweet corn growers reported excellent yields this year with many fields in the 8 and 9 ton/A range. With normal hot temperatures in July, and a cooler than normal August, June and early July plantings had good growing conditions. With increased prices being paid, processing sweet corn was very profitable this year. 2008 was a good year for fresh market sweet corn as long as there was adequate irrigation. Wholesale prices in July were $18-25 per crate, August prices ranged from $10-14 per crate. Prices in general were higher in 2008 than in 2006 or 2007.

● Pickle growers report having a good year. A larger portion of the acreage is being harvested with self propelled harvesters and significant acreage is being custom harvested. This is a shift away from the farmer-owned tractor mounted harvesters. Downy mildew was a factor again in 2008 and fungicide timing was an issue in some fields.

● Lima beans in 2008 have been a mixed bag. Dryland lima beans suffered greatly with the August drought and many fields have yielded under 1000 lbs/A. Irrigated lima beans are giving excellent yields. August temperatures in 2008 were considerably lower than in 2006 or 2007 leading to improved pod set and pod retention in irrigated fields. White mold is being reported as a current issue due to the good vine growth in irrigated lima beans. Herbicide resistant pigweed has been a major challenge in lima bean fields in 2008 and I have seen more wick bars and wipers being used in fields than in past years.

● Watermelons and cantaloupes suffered a poor start due to the cold May and nor’easter. Harvest was delayed and early yields were reduced in 2008. Dry weather did reduce disease pressure and later plantings have done well. Prices were very good (significantly higher than 2007) and held throughout the season.

● This has been an average pumpkin season. Dryland plantings were hurt by the August drought. Powdery mildew pressure has been heavy in all pumpkins and we are seeing reduced fungicide efficacy in some fields. Viruses are also present at significant levels in many fields.

● Early snap beans had reduced growth due to the cold spring and yields were reduced. Late spring and summer prices were excellent for fresh market. The cooler August helped to improve set in mid-summer plantings. Processing snap bean yields have been variable and improved as the season progressed.

● Squash and other vine crops had significant issues with squash bugs and cucumber beetles. Squash bug numbers were higher than in recent years and had higher early populations. Fungal wilts were a major problem in a number of plantings, especially summer squash.

● 2008 was an excellent year for peaches. Late freezes were not an issue and dry summer weather reduced disease pressure. Irrigation was necessary to maintain fruit size.

● Grape quality is good in 2008 with the dry weather during the ripening period. There were periods in 2008 where downy mildew and powdery mildew pressure was high.

● We had one of the worst years for fire blight in recent memory with apples and pears. The wet weather in mid-May set up perfect conditions for the disease. Orchards that missed bactericide application timings were hard hit.

● This has been an average year for tomatoes and peppers. Stinkbug pressure was high for a period of time leading to fruit issues in tomatoes. Disease pressure in tomatoes was much reduced due to the dry weather.

● Weather was conducive to good spring cabbage production. Prices were $14 per crate, well up from the $8 per crate in 2007.

● Prices are up in general for vegetables in 2008, but so are production, harvest, packing, and shipping costs. Adjustments to processing crop prices paid to growers helped to maintain acreage on Delmarva. Higher field crop prices have helped to take pressure off of shipping markets for fresh market vegetables by reducing vegetable acreage in parts of the country.

● Vegetable crops for fall harvest look good in general. Pumpkins are being shipped. Sweet potatoes are being dug. Cabbage harvest will start soon. Broccoli, cauliflower, greens, and turnips are growing well. Later snap bean and lima bean plantings have good sets. August planted spinach crops have good growth.

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