Fall rain may cause spring leafy greens gap

11/11/2010 11:54:54 AM
Don Schrack

BRAWLEY, Calif. — The elements were not particularly friendly to some California grower-shippers as they planted winter vegetable crops in the desert.

Temperatures soared as the first plantings went in the ground. Then rain — sometimes heavy rain — hit just as later plantings were scheduled. The damage, however, was hit and miss.

“That’s the nature of the rain down in the desert,” said Mark McBride, sales office manager for Salinas-based Coastline. “On one side of the road you have a disaster, and on the other side you have dust under your boots.”

While some growers were hard-hit, Coastline was still determining whether there was damage, McBride said in late October.

“But it now looks as if we’re OK,” he said.

Coastline was scheduled to begin its fall harvest of iceberg lettuce in the Yuma area Nov. 10 with romaine and red leaf, green leaf and butter lettuce to follow Nov. 22.

The company will transition to its California desert acreage in December with harvesting of all of the lettuce varieties scheduled to start about Dec. 10, McBride said.

Coastline will continue to ship California leafy greens until about mid-March, he said, when the company goes back to Yuma for a short season followed by another short season in Huron before returning to the Salinas Valley in mid-spring 2011.

Fresno-based Baloian Farms limits its transitions. Harvesting of romaine, romaine hearts and red leaf, green leaf and butter lettuce started in late October in the Fresno area, said Jeremy Lane, sales manager.

“We kind of prime our winter season by starting out of Fresno,” he said. “It fits very well when other companies are transitioning from Salinas to Yuma.”

Baloian’s desert acreage is near Thermal on the upper edges of the Coachella Valley. Rain caused no problems in the higher elevation fields, Lane said, and harvesting of romaine, romaine hearts, red leaf, green leaf and butter lettuce is expected to begin on schedule at the end of November.

Winter iceberg production for Castroville-based Ocean Mist Farms will be in the Yuma area, said Jeff Percy, vice president of desert production. Picking is scheduled to begin Nov. 18, he said.

California’s Coachella Valley is the company’s base for winter romaine hearts and spinach. Harvesting of those commodities is scheduled to begin about Nov. 23, Percy said.

Lettuce acreage is down slightly this season at Sahara Packing Co. Inc., Brawley, said Bruce Smith, general manager. The company will still harvest more than 1,700 acres of iceberg and romaine, he said, with iceberg accounting for about 1,200 acres.


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