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Another year of predicted spring harvest gaps following California rains

Given the recent rains that California has seen over the last five to six weeks, harvest gaps in April-May could be ahead on some vegetable commodities. "We've had a couple of pretty good storms with some decent rainfall. However the ground has stayed wet for so long now and we'll probably see some spring planting gaps," says Russ Widerburg of Valley Produce.

He notes that the ground has been so wet that farm equipment can't get into the fields. "So there's a lot of idle ground that is just staying here wet and they can't get it planted," he says, noting that in Oxnard/Santa Maria, he hasn't seen tractor equipment in the grounds for at least four weeks.

While the gaps can close once product is planted, either by double up plantings or pushing the crop a bit more with fertilizer and other techniques, that comes with a risk of the product's quality being compromised. "When it's two or three weeks of a gap, you can do that but when it's four to six weeks, there could be adverse effects," Widerburg says.

More rain coming
With more modest rains ahead, that could continue to keep the ground wet and postpone any groundwork by a few more days. "We could go five weeks here without them being able to prep any ground," says Widerburg.

In terms of affected commodities, celery is one. "With celery, the first month of growing is in the nurseries with transplants. However, once those get full, they can't do anymore so they'll still run into issues," he says. He also notes that other items that may run into gaps would be cabbages, leafy greens, bunched items such as spinach and cilantro and more.

Meanwhile, broccoli and cauliflower saw plantings earlier in the season in January before the rains. "So you might see them start okay--those are 90-100 day crops--but then they'll have a gap after they harvest for three or four weeks," says Widerburg.

In turn, with gaps potentially ahead, markets could strengthen on these items.

For more information:
Russ Widerburg
Valley Produce