Yuma frosts slow vegetable harvests

12/06/2013 01:27:00 PM
Andy Nelson

Courtesy Church Bros. LLCFrost is slowing vegetable harvests in the Arizona desert, and if cold temperatures continue, yields could fall, grower-shippers said.

“We had a little frost yesterday, but today was by far the heaviest,” Jason Lathos, commodities manager for Salinas, Calif.-based Church Bros. LLC, said Dec. 6. “We anticipate the same tomorrow and Sunday.”

In fields east of Yuma, Ariz., Church Bros. crews couldn’t begin harvesting until about noon Dec. 6 because of frost, Lathos said.

“It’s less than five hours versus 10 hours” of harvest time on a typical day at this time of year, Lathos said.

Closer to Yuma, Church Bros. crews were delayed until 10 or 10:30 a.m. Dec. 6.

Church Bros. was sourcing all varieties of its lettuces and cauliflower and broccoli from Yuma in December, Lathos said.

Harvest was delayed about an hour in Yuma Dec. 6 for Salinas, Calif.-based Coastline Produce, said Mark McBride, salesman.

Frost typically won’t hurt lettuce unless it occurs several day in a row, McBride said.

“The plants are very resilient, but if they get three or four consecutive days (of frost) it can possibly cause some blistering and peeling.”

Broccoli and cauliflower, however, are much more susceptible to the cold, McBride said.

“Depending on how long it lasts, it will reduce the amount of broccoli and cauliflower out there.”

And with Christmas approaching, that could mean a jump in prices.

“(Markets) have been pretty draggy, but things can change in a hurry,” McBride said.

And while the night of Dec. 6-7 was expected to be warmer, with no frost likely, the cold was expected to return to Yuma over the weekend and stick around for awhile, McBride said.

“It’s going to be cooler than normal the next five or six days with the chance of some ice.”



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