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USA - California: Cooler weather slows vegetable crops

The cooler-than-average winter weather in the Imperial Valley has altered vegetable growers’ harvest schedules. Holtville grower John Hawk. “The lettuce is smaller. It takes longer to grow. Our onions are behind—maybe 10 days to two weeks behind, as far as bulbing.”

Hawk grows iceberg lettuce, romaine, onions, organic carrots and organic onions. “Last year, we had maybe just a few days—two or three days—of ‘lettuce ice,’ which gets down to 32 to 35 degrees in the mornings. This year, we’ve had 20-plus days of lettuce ice.”

Lettuce ice—which Hawk defines as “a general term that means it’s cold”—means crews have to postpone work.

“In the winter, when you would start harvesting at, say, 6:30 in the morning, with lettuce ice you are delayed two or three hours if you have ice on the lettuce,” he said.

Hawk pointed out that on such days, the ground will be two to three degrees cooler than the air temperature. “You cannot cut lettuce when there’s ice in it,” he said. “It’ll discolor. You have to wait till the ice is out.”

With less lettuce in the field ready to harvest, the cold can lead to four or five harvest days per week instead of six, Hawk said, and workdays of four to six hours.

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