An empty aisle: Heavy rainfall gives vegetable lovers little to pick


FREMONT, Ohio – Consumers may face slim pickings in the produce aisle this year thanks to this spring’s excessive rainfall.

Wet fields have prevented tomato and other vegetable crop producers from planting in a timely manner, which may result in reduced yields.

Tomato producers in Ohio, Indiana and southern Michigan have struggled to get transplant and planting equipment through unfit fields, said Matt Hofelich, manager of Ohio State University’s vegetable crops branch.

Wet conditions also are making timely applications of fungicides, insecticides and herbicides difficult this season.

“Field preparation has been a limiting factor up to this point. As a result, we’ve been forced at the branch to hand-plant seven to eight acres of plots. For larger producers, it is impractical to hand transplant entire fields,” Hofelich said.

The vegetable crop branch, which normally plants 14 acres of tomatoes, is behind schedule with only about 70 percent of the crop planted, Hofelich said.

Diminished yields. Commercial producers also face reduced yields with only about 75 percent of the tomato crop planted, according to the USDA. Tomatoes planted beyond the second week of June run the risk of not maturing, he said.

“We simply run out of growing days,” he said.

Some tomato transplants may be abandoned because growers can not get them in the ground.

Shorter-season tomato varieties are available, but switching will not guarantee the grower a crop, Hofelich said. Reduced yields in all vegetable crops: sweet corn, peppers, pumpkins, melons and others, will have an impact on both processing and fresh produce markets.


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