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By Carol Lawrence

Frequent rainfall and above-normal amounts in California’s key Salinas growing area will likely lower production volumes of spring vegetables this season and delay supplies.

Jeff Hyosaka, sales manager for Salinas-based Pacific International Marketing, said while plantings have begun, January and February rains interrupted what is usually a consistent schedule of planting, so timing for vegetables on the front-end is unknown.

“Production yields coming out are more uncertain this year than last year. This won’t be a normal situation,” Hyosaka said. 

“We’ve got more extremes than we’ve dealt with (in recent years).”

Several days of frost and the frequent rain in Arizona and Mexico desert regions where the company’s winter lettuce, broccoli and cauliflower have kept workers out of the fields until later in the morning and hurt planting and growth cycles, he said. 

That will probably mean lower volumes than last year, depending on the upcoming weather, he said.

“Weather that went through in the desert hampered our ability to get full production from what’s in the ground,” he said. 

“It probably won’t be a seamless transition.”

Winter rainfall in the Salinas area was about 130% above normal, said Art Barrientos, vice president of harvesting for Castroville-based Ocean Mist Farms. Some vegetable crops are maturing slowly, and growth has been uneven, Barrientos said, but the effect overall has been minimal.

“However, some plantings have been moved around, which could result in lighter than ideal volumes during late spring or early summer,” he said.

Broccoli and cauliflower harvest should begin in late March, and that’s pretty close to typical years, he added. Volumes should be “fairly close.”

“However, we are anticipating periods where volumes may be lighter due to rain periods not letting us plant in a timely manner,” he said.

Barrientos doesn’t expect any interruptions transitioning to Salinas from desert growing areas.

In February, the Salinas area received four to eight inches of rain, according to the National Weather Service. Rain fell almost steadily during January, and in early March.

The rain also kept growers from doing necessary cultural practices, such as applying fertilizer, said Martin Jefferson, Northern California production manager for Duda Farm Fresh Foods’ Salinas branch.

Growers will do multiple plantings in one week during the breaks rather than planting over several weeks, he said, and that could throw off supply schedules.

“The start of the Salinas season is likely to be delayed, and there’s going to be a lot of disruptions to volumes for a good portion of spring production” of major crops, Jefferson said.

Initial harvests will likely be delayed a week or so, he estimated, and volume disruptions will continue.

Salad Savoy Corp., Salinas, has experienced only two to three days of disruption with its direct seed crops, such as chard and Tuscan kale, said Seth Karm, Salad Savoy’s CEO.

But transplants from nurseries, including cauliflower, have been delayed by about two weeks, he said.

“That’s where we will expect interesting shifts,” Karm said, adding that overlap from vegetables in Yuma, Ariz., in April will probably prevent supply interruptions.