Extreme weather wipes out pumpkin crop
Global warming threatens our 4th of July celebrations with droughts that have forced communities to scrap plans for fireworks displays. And it threatens our White Christmases with winter heat waves. And our Arbor Days with record wildfires. Now it imperils our Halloweens.
In a story headlined, “Rain, Drought, Wipe Out Pumpkin Crops Across U.S.,” Fox News reports the frightening news:
Scorching weather and lack of rain this summer wiped out some pumpkin crops from western New York to Illinois, leaving fields dotted with undersized fruit. Other fields got too much rain and their crops rotted.
Pumpkin production is predicted to be down for the second straight year.
One expert ominously predicts a run on pumpkins: “If you’ve got to have them for your 5-year-olds, I certainly would not wait a long time to get them.”
Even Stephen Colbert has reported on what he calls the War on Halloween (though, characteristic of his out-of-the-mainstream politics, he doesn’t make the obvious link to global warming).
The bottom line, however, is clear: Pumpkins (like most people) hate extreme weather. Sadly, global warming means more droughts and more deluges.
What exactly does extreme weather do to pumpkins?
Hot, dry weather causes pumpkins to produce too many male blossoms and too few female ones. Farmers also can blame drought for scads of small pumpkins as well as lighter weights because of a lack of water.
Standing in a 2-acre pumpkin field at his Buffalo farm, Bob Gritt lamented the poor color and small size of the crop surrounding him.
“The color’s not real good on them,” he said. “There’s not very many big ones in there.”
At least Gritt has pumpkins. Some West Virginia farmers don’t.
The West Virginia Pumpkin Festival has found itself in the unusual position of importing pumpkins for the four-day event beginning Thursday that lures about 40,000 visitors to Milton every year, organizer Martha Poore said.
All this is enough to make one lose faith in the Great Pumpkin. The impact is nationwide:
… production is down two-thirds in West Virginia, Kentucky and parts of Ohio …
The drought has also hurt growers in western New York, and in Michigan, as much as half the crop has been lost because of hot, dry weather in the north, Michigan State University extension educator Ron Goldy estimates. Heavy rain that left standing water in southern Michigan fields caused much of the crop to rot, a problem Goldy says also affected parts of Illinois, Indiana and Ohio.
Ask southern Illinois grower Sarah Frey what happened this summer and she’s quick to respond: “Thirty percent loss, at least. Hot, dry weather, drought. It was all those days that we had that were 105 degrees.”
And who gets hurt? The American consumer, of course, as price rises but quality drops:
“There’s no moisture in them … The public is paying more per pound for it, but they’re getting less.”
Equally troublesome, we are forced to turn to imported pumpkins:
Helping relieve pressure on the jack-o’-lantern crop is the increasing popularity of smaller, heirloom varieties, such as gray-blue Jarrahdale or the Marina di Chioggia, pumpkins native to Australia and Italy, respectively.
Pumpkins from Australia and Italy consume massive amounts of energy in transportation, releasing more greenhouse gases — one more amplifying feedback to worry about.