A heat wave featuring temperatures in the triple digits was taking its toll on some East Coast fruit and vegetable crops the week of July 5, but other crops were faring well, grower-shippers and officials said.
“For the most part we’ve been very fortunate, but there have been some diminished supplies,” said Bill Nardelli, president of Cedarville, N.J.-based Nardelli Bros. Inc. “When plants stress because of warm temperatures, they don’t produce.”
Nardelli Bros.’s production of cucumbers, green beans and other vegetables was down the week of July 5 when temperatures reached the mid- to high-90s several days in a row, Nardelli said.
In addition, the company’s farmworkers were only working until noon on those extremely hot days, he said.
The heat was not expected to have as much of an effect on Nardelli’s Bros.’s peppers, which thrive in hot, dry weather, Nardelli said.
Nardelli Bros.’s farms have the advantage of drip irrigation, Nardelli said. Growers in Virginia and other states south of New Jersey who don’t have drip were in significantly worse shape, he said.
Lynne Richmond, spokeswoman for the New Jersey Department of Agriculture, said as of July 8 the department had received no reports of major damage to fruit and vegetable crops.
“So far, so good,” she said. “We’re hoping for some precipitation later this week. That would definitely help.”
Temperatures topped 100 the week of July 5 in Gardners, Pa., home of apple and peach grower-shipper Rice Fruit Co., said John Rice, president.
“We’d like them to get more water like last year, but they’re not showing any obvious signs of stress yet,” Rice said July 8. “We’ve turned on the irrigation where we have it.”
Rice Fruit has the capability to irrigate all of its peach trees and its young apple trees, Rice said.
Temperatures were forecast to fall by the weekend of July 10-11, and there was a 30% chance of rain July 8-11, Rice said.
“We’re crossing our fingers,” he said.
In Maryland, where temperatures also topped 100, the extreme heat was pushing up production of many commodities and, in some cases, causing significant damage, said Sue du Pont, communications director for the Maryland Department of Agriculture.
Anecdotally, du Pont heard of a grower who lost his entire sweet corn crop. She also heard reports of watermelons coming on too quickly, which will reduce volumes.
A July 5 report from the Maryland Agricultural Statistics Service cited accelerations of the state’s watermelon, cantaloupe, tomato, bean and cucumber crops, though the effect on volumes remains to be seen, du Pont said.
Apple and peach crops in Maryland and Delaware, however, had not been hurt by the heat, according to the report, du Pont said.