Heat puts cap on bell pepper sizes in California

11/09/2012 12:37:00 PM
Mike Hornick

Hot autumn weather and the effects of a Sept. 11 flood in California’s Coachella Valley could slow the start of bell pepper production there and result in smaller sizes at the deal’s start.

“It’s pushing back the start time to around Nov. 10 for us, about 10 days later than normal,” said Gene Coughlin, category director for peppers at Bakersfield, Calif.-based Sun World International.

Sun World grows its elongated red and yellow peppers — Le Rouge Royale and Le Jaune Royale — along with miniature peppers in the valley.

“Sizing isn’t going to be as large this year because of the late heat, so we’re looking at being more in the large category as opposed to extra large,” Coughlin said. “We’ll see a few more mediums down there as well.”

 Good quality, quantity

Yield will be slightly below normal, he said. Sun World plans to transition to Los Mochis, Mexico, in mid-December.

Prime Time International LLC, Coachella, Calif., expects good volume and a quicker start, but confirmed sizing is an issue.

“The heat has been excessive, but I don’t think at least for us that’s affected the start time as much as the vigor of the plants,” director of marketing Mike Aiton said Oct. 22. “We’re seeing peppers that are just a bit smaller and have grown under a more stressful environment. I wouldn’t expect to see a lot of extra-large peppers coming from this area, but the quality and quantity appears to be good.”

Prime Time has four colors of bell peppers and minis that will ship out of Coachella right through the holidays. Production then shifts to Mexico. But a greenhouse program in Coachella will go all winter — from about Nov. 15 through April.

 Greens in time for holidays

John Burton, general manager of sales and cooler for Coachella-based Peter Rabbit Farms, expected lettuce to start just before Thanksgiving.

“Romaine will probably be our first,” Burton said in late October. “It’s virtually a perfect stand. Everything is lined up for a fantastic start to leaf lettuce.”

Days were on the warm side there — often 90 degrees, he said — but the plants benefited from nighttime temperatures around 65. Fields in other parts of the valley were wiped out by September rains, he said, but those fell mostly outside production areas. Peter Rabbit will have leaf lettuce all the way through March; the company also sources spinach and a variety of vegetables.


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