“A lot of the small fields are beat up pretty bad, so you’ll have less stand and less yield,” Antle said.
“As much as I’m concerned about late planting, there are fields that had just been planted and then got pounded. The soil was sealed to where the seed couldn’t germinate through it.”
Strawberries became Monterey County’s No. 1 cash-value commodity — $756 million — in 2009, according to the county’s last crop report. But lettuce is still the king, if you combine the head and leaf categories. It’s a $1.1 billion industry in the county.
Trailing it among vegetables are broccoli at about $280 million; celery at $172 million; spring mix at $166 million; spinach at $132 million; and cauliflower at $112 million.
Lettuce remains strong despite a dip in acreage over the years. There were 143,000 acres planted in Monterey County in 2009, the last year for which statistics are available, down from 150,246 the year before.
“Iceberg consumption has been relatively flat to slightly negative,” Duda said.
“Because high-density plantings have grown dramatically in the last five or six years, you get great yields so you don’t need as many acres. The volume and yield factors have played into acres either stabilizing or declining on romaine, leaf lettuces and iceberg.”