In the first week of November, some companies in Huelva had not yet finished planting strawberries on their farms. "Some nurseries have really delayed the start of the planting this year, in some cases, to mid-October, which is late for us," says Manuel Alfaro, manager of El Pilonar.
"Moreover, we have again dealt with problems with some plants this year. With one variety in particular, we've had to pull up entire farms and replant them 14-15 days after the planting. This, added to the delay in the delivery of plants, is going to cause a delay of between a month and a month and a half in some plantations. In fact, at El Pilonar today, we are still replanting all those plants that were not doing well enough."
Last year, the heat and drought were said to be to blame for this situation, said Manuel, and the percentage of losses exceeded 20% in many cases, but this season, the planting has coincided with a series of storms, which has resulted in more favorable humidity and temperature conditions than back then. "We believe some of the strawberry plants from the high altitude nurseries were pulled up during rainy days, so the roots came with a lot of mud. Therefore, they have not rooted easily and, as my field technician verified with a simple cut, they had died asphyxiated from the very core."
"They said that the impact also depends on the varieties. In some cases, we have had to replace between 10 and 12% of the plants, while with others, we have reached 18-20%. We even have a plot in which we've had to replace 90,000 plants that had been planted 15 days ago. We are talking about very large quantities. At El Pilonar, we have more than 5 million strawberry plants.
The replanting has been carried out in weeks during which the long-anticipated rains arrived on the coast of Huelva accompanied by strong wind gusts, which caused damage to the entire sector, said Manuel Alfaro. "In Cartaya, Aljaraque, Moguer, Bonares, Lucena... the wind has broken arches and plastics of greenhouses that were already set up for raspberries and blueberries, causing significant losses at both a structural and production level."
"The upside is all the extra water. Last month, it was announced that the 25% cut in irrigation that we were already suffering last year would be raised to 50%. The plants are doing very well now thanks to all the rain, but we are asking the Andalusian Government to increase the irrigation allocation so we can properly maintain them when the rain stops."
"I, personally, have decided to stop growing 30 hectares: 26 hectares of strawberries and 4 of blueberries, fearing that I won't have enough water for the crops' proper development. I just hope the situation will improve so I can plant them again next year."