Cucumbers grow for Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable Co. ( Courtesy Southern Valley Fruit & Vegetable Inc. )

Harvest start dates were running behind year-ago starts for Georgia produce, but shippers report warmer weather will quickly turn up shipments by May and June.

Cool weather through March and much of April has held harvest back later compared with last year, when Georgia growing regions experienced a warm spring, said Tim Coolong, associate professor for the University of Georgia and extension vegetable specialist in Tifton, Ga.

Peak season for Georgia produce is just around the corner. USDA shipment figures from 2016 show the top two months for Georgia produce shipments were June, with 48% of the state’s total yearly shipments, and July, with 19% of annual Georgia produce volume.

 

Late and great

Harvest dates this year are running 10-14 days behind normal, said Eric Bolesta, salesman for Ken Corbett Farms LLC, Lake Park, Ga., but the harvest weather has been ideal.

“The forecast between now and the end of May is not really calling for temps above 90, and that’s excellent,” he said.

Pollination for squash may have been dampened by cool and damp weather, said Joey Johnson, president and co-owner of J&S Produce, Mount Vernon, Ga.

“April has been more like a March and we are probably two weeks behind normal,” he said.

While squash and zucchini would have normally been in full harvest by May 1, this year they had barely started.

“I think we still have good volume,” Johnson said. “We are just starting a little bit later.”

Pricing conditions in the double digits for squash were expected to ease when Georgia volume accelerates, he said.

 

Sluggish start

Through April 28, no shipments of Georgia squash were reported by the USDA, compared with 4.1 million pounds shipped by the same date a year ago. Total Georgia squash shipments last year were 49.7 million pounds.

The USDA reported that through April 28, blueberry shipments from Georgia totaled 2.8 million pounds, down from 66 million pounds at the same time last year.

For the week of April 23-28, Georgia accounted for 20% of total U.S. blueberry volume, down from 34% at the same time last year.

Total Georgia blueberry shipments last year totaled 22.5 million pounds, according to the USDA.

The Atlanta terminal market price for 12 1-pint cartons of Georgia blueberries on May 4 was $31, compared with $30-31 per carton at the same time a year ago.

Georgia shipments of cabbage the week of April 23-28 totaled 2.2 million pounds, down from 6.3 million pounds the same time last year. Georgia accounted for 15% of total cabbage supply for the week, down from 36% of total supply a year ago.

Season-to-date shipments of Georgia cabbage through April 22 totaled 2.4 million pounds, off from 11.1 million pounds at the same time a year ago. Total Georgia cabbage shipments last year totaled 61.5 million pounds.

For the week of April 23-28, Georgia onion shipments totaled 16.8 million pounds, down from 19.7 million pounds the same week a year ago.

Georgia onions accounted for 16% of total U.S. onion volume, compared 17% at the same time a year ago.

Season-to-date shipments of Georgia onions through April 28 were 25 million pounds, down from 57.1 million pounds at the same time last year.

Georgia onion shipments last year totaled 283.6 million pounds, according to the USDA.

 

Ahead of the game

Not all Georgia produce shipments were lagging in late April.

In a bid to diversify, Coolong said growers have increased plantings of broccoli in Georgia. USDA shipments figure through April 28 reflect bigger volume in 2018 so far compared with 2017.

The USDA reports that for the week of April 23-28, Georgia accounted for 2.3 million pounds, up from no reported shipments the same week a year ago.

Georgia accounted for 8% of total U.S. broccoli supply the week of April 23-28.

Season-to-date shipments of Georgia broccoli through April 28 totaled 14.7 million pounds, up from just 3.3 million pounds the same time a year ago. Total broccoli shipments all of last year totaled 4 million pounds, according to the USDA.

Georgia carrot shipments the week of April 23-28 totaled 1.9 million pounds, up from 1.6 million pounds the same week a year ago.

Georgia represented just 7% of total U.S. carrot supply for the week, slightly up from 6% the same week a year ago. Total Georgia carrot shipments in 2017 totaled 19.4 million pounds, the USDA reports.

Georgia is a significant producer of greens and late April shipment figures reflected that fact. For the week of April 23-28, Georgia shipped 3.3 million pounds of greens, up from 2.7 million pounds the same week last year.

The state’s shippers accounted for 65% of U.S. greens volume, compared with 43% of total U.S. shipments at the same time. Total greens shipments from Georgia topped 80 million pounds in 2017, according to the USDA.

 

Whitefly worries

After devastating crop damage last fall from diseases spread by the whitefly virus, Coolong said state officials and growers are keeping an eye on the pest this year.

“We have been much more proactive in terms of tracking them through the winter,” Coolong said.

“Populations have been low, but nonetheless we are trying to stay out front of the curve in case we do have a year like last year,” he said.

Plant breeders are also looking for varieties that show disease resistance to disease spread by whiteflies.

That list includes the yellow leaf curl virus for tomatoes, the cucurbit leaf crumple virus for squash and snap beans, and the cucurbit yellow stunting virus for cucumbers and cantaloupe.

“There were a number of large fields of snap beans that were 100% lost (last fall) due to virus,” he said.

 
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