Vidalia growers assess effects of rain, cold

03/25/2013 10:44:00 AM
Coral Beach

Vidalia onion fieldCoral BeachThis field of onions south of Vidalia, Ga., had dried out by March 15, after torrential rains in February dumped 10-24 inches of rain across the region. A storm front the first weekend of spring spread another 2-4 inches of rain across the region and low overnight temperatures forecast for the last week of March has many growers anticipating a delay on the start date from a couple of days to a week.Heavy rains and near freezing temperatures the first weekend of spring threatened to delay and damage the Vidalia onion crop just days before many growers planned to start harvesting.

Walt Dasher, co-owner of G&R Farms, Glennville, Ga., said his fields got about two inches of rain March 23-24.

“Reports are that some areas north of us got much more,” Dasher said. “I think the rain and cool weather will definitely push the start date to at least April 15 to 20.”

The Georgia Agriculture Department set April 15 as the shipping start for Vidalia onions, but growers can ship before that date with special inspections. As of March 20, several growers said they would be shipping small volumes as early as April 8.

Kevin Hendrix, vice president of Hendrix Produce Inc., Metter, Ga., said March 25 that his fields, which are almost 40 miles north of G&R Farms, got at least three inches of rain March 23-24.

“It’s too early to tell what impact this will have on the onions,” Hendrix said. “The cold temperatures that we are having will affect us more than anything.”

Sarah Seebran, marketing director for Bland Farms, Glennville, Ga., said the company’s fields received “significant rain.”

“Today (March 25) it will be sunny and windy which should help dry out the fields,” Seebran said. “However, they are also calling for near freezing temperatures tonight. It can take a couple of days sometimes before the effects manifest.”

Richard Pazderski, director of business development for Utah Onions, said he had heard reports of some hail March 23 in the Glennville area, but that he hadn’t seen the damage himself.

“The fields up by Statesboro where Gerrald’s Vidalia Sweets fields are got some rain and we are checking them today (March 25) but we don’t think it will delay things much more than a day or two,” Pazderski said.

“We need to make sure the necks are beginning to dry before we begin to dig. The cold snap could slow things down but not too much.”

In February, the Vidalia region had 10-day rainfall totals from 10 inches to 24 inches that threatened to drown as much as 25% of some growers’ crops. But by the first day of spring, March 20, most fields had dried out.



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