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Bad weather, not fire, plaguing Salinas crops

This is impatiens necrotic spot virus in Romaine lettuce. Markon says normal yields from a field would be 900-1,000 cases, but right now, crews are only harvesting 600-700 cases, which will cause supply issues. (Photo courtesy Markon)

Fire provides the drama, but the erratic weather the past month in the Salinas, CA, region takes the blame for market problems now.

Prices for many leaf items are rising rapidly as growers report lighter yields and disease problems.

Salinas has seen cool weather recently, which comes after two heatwaves in the past month.

Markon Cooperative, BB #:123315 Salinas, sent this alert to customers on September 16:

• Over the last couple of weeks, California’s Salinas Valley has seen an explosion of plant virus and disease issues that are heavily impacting lettuce crops
• Green leaf has been the least affected, but yields are down 20%-50% in some iceberg and romaine lettuce crops
• Sclerotinia is not uncommon in late summer/early fall crops, but the Impatiens Necrotic Spot Virus is typically not as widespread as it is currently being reported
• Harvesting crews are heavily trimming heads to detect and cull defects, but may not be able to eliminate these issues 100%
• Production crews are harvesting fields at a faster pace due to the increase in culled product; upcoming fields will have less time to fully mature
• Expect light weights, intermittent quality and shelf-life issues, and elevated markets for lettuce items for the duration of the Salinas season

Markon projects that prices will remain high for the remainder of the Salinas season for iceberg lettuce and romaine and green leaf.

 

Greg Johnson is Director of Media Development for Blue Book Services