Salinas lettuce has some mildew, but high quality remains for most greens

06/17/2009 11:42:40 AM
Dawn Withers

Lower than normal temperatures, sporadic rain and high humidity are causing mildew problems with some Salinas Valley lettuces.

Though growers said the mildew problems aren’t widespread or dramatically affecting yields, it has caused some to disc under portions of fields and reduce box counts.

“I would say overall our production is pretty much on track,” said Mark McBride, sales office manager for Coastline Produce Inc., Salinas.

McBride said the unusual weather has increased mildew problems on romaine for the company and hampered some yields but overall production remains unaffected by the lost heads. The warm and wet weather hasn’t caused other problems with the company’s lettuce deal, he said.

“There are no other quality issues,” McBride said.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, on June 15 f.o.b.s for film-lined 24s of iceberg were between $10.45-$12.50, with 24s film-wrapped going for $12-$15, and 30s film-wrapped selling for between $9.50 -$11.

For romaine, the USDA listed prices of $10-$15 for 24s. Romaine hearts in cartons of 12s were selling for $11.50-$16.50, and romaine hearts in film-lined cartons of 48s sold for $12.50-$17.50.

Green leaf in 24s sold for $6-$8.50.

Steve Church, vice president and director of operations at Church Bros. LLC, Salinas, also attributed mildew issues to weather problems but said he hasn’t lost a lot of yield or seen deterioration in lettuce quality.

“Last week we had the best week ever on units of lettuce as far as volume,” Church said.

The company is starting to adjust acreage down slightly to compensate for increased competition from summer fruit and regional lettuce programs that ship to East Coast markets.

Church said while it isn’t unusual to have quality issues in the middle of the season, early spring lettuces in the ground since winter tend to have more quality issues than what mildew is doing to current plantings of iceberg and romaine.

“Since mid-May, almost through the first part of the June, the quality has been outstanding other than the mildew,” Church said.

Josh Ruiz, general manager of iceberg production for Tanimura & Antle, Salinas, said some iceberg is having issues with mildew but the company isn’t seeing any major quality issues since it moved to some of the Salinas Valley’s most production ground over the past two years.

“We think we’re doing better because of where we’re at,” Ruiz said.



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