Lettuce growers in the Yuma, Ariz., area have suffered a freeze that turned out to be several degrees cooler than some forecasts predicted.

“It was 25 degrees in the south Yuma Valley,” said John D’Arrigo, president of Salinas, Calif.-based D’Arrigo Bros. Co. “Somerton was 29 degrees at 8:30 a.m. (Feb. 3). That’s bone cold. Lettuce can’t handle it.”

The Yuma deal had already seen threatening weather, beginning with a New Years Day weekend freeze. Peeling and an airborne sclerotinia fungus dropped some growers’ yields by 10% to 20%. While the extent of the new damage is unclear, the supply shortage is likely to continue if not worsen.

D’Arrigo predicts at least another six weeks of problems.

“We’re in for a wild ride,” he said. “It’s going to be difficult to make your top grade. A lot will have to go into secondary labels. The industry will have to be careful about quality control as crop moves around the country. You can’t have these temperatures without showing heavy blistering and freeze burns and potentially a decay-and-rot situation in transit.

“I’ve never in my lifetime seen this amount of ice and cold in Yuma. Maybe the oldtimers have seen it.”

Freeze strikes Yuma lettuce

Courtesy D'Arrigo Bros. Co.

Ice gathers in a Yuma, Ariz., area iceberg lettuce field Feb. 3.