Courtesy Bagley ProduceWatermelon markets could remain high after a March 29 hailstorm wiped out up to 3,000 acres of the Rio Grande Valley’s watermelon crop. Bagley Produce, Edinburg, Texas, is still assessing damage, but salesman Jeff Fawcett says up to 20% of the grower’s watermelon plants were damaged.A hailstorm swept through the Rio Grande Valley on March 29, causing widespread damage to the region’s watermelons.
The storm, according to local news reports, also caused flooding and property damage in McAllen, Edinburg and Pharr, Texas. Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are in the valley assessing damage to determine if the area qualifies for disaster assistance.
Juan Anciso, associate professor and extension vegetable specialist for the Texas AgriLife Extension Service, Weslaco, Texas, said early estimates didn’t look good for the region’s 10,000 acres planted.
“Some crops were severely affected, like watermelons,” he said. “I estimate anywhere from 2,000 to 3,000 acres of watermelons were wiped out.”
Jeff Fawcett, salesman for Edinburg, Texas-based Bagley Produce Inc., said the company still is assessing damage to its watermelon plants, which aren’t due for harvest until mid-May.
Fawcett said early estimates showed about 20% of plants were damaged and were not expected to recover.
Matthew Bradley, sales manager for Edinburg, Texas-based J&D Produce Inc., said the company’s early honeydew melons were affected.
“We did lose about 30 of 250 acres of honeydews,” he said. “But the rest are fine. We lost a few acres (about 15) of our personal seedless melons. A couple people I’ve heard lost a significant amount of their acreage.”
The storm’s path wasn’t a direct hit on the entire valley.
“Our onion acreage escaped the hail, but I don’t know about the industry,” said Mike Martin, president of Rio Queen Citrus Inc., Mission, Texas. “We did have citrus acreage that was peppered. There’s no way to quantify the damage, but I’m sure there will be some.”
“We got rain but no hail, and little to no damage,” said Curtis DeBerry, president and owner of Boerne, Texas-based Progreso Produce. “I heard some others were not as lucky.”
Ward Thomas, president of McAllen-based Majestic Produce, said his growers also fared well.
“We were in the quadrant but didn’t get hit,” he said.
Ray Prewett, executive vice president of the Mission-based Texas Vegetable Association, said April 2 the damage reports were minimal and about half the area where the storm hit was urban.
“It hit a pretty small percentage of things and not an area where we have a whole lot of onions,” he said. “It did do quite a bit of damage to some watermelons in the northern part of the area.”
Prewett said the storm wasn’t entirely unwelcome.
“One thing that helped as far as the rain damage was that it was very dry before this came and the ground absorbed the water pretty quickly,” he said. “Some areas got 3.5 inches of rain and you’d never know it.”
Citrus damage still is unknown, Prewett said. Fruit is about marble-size at this point in the growing season.
“We do see some citrus leaves on the ground, but with the fruit being so small, it’s hard to tell,” he said.