Pumpkin growers under a cloud
Heavy rains in Mississippi and nationwide have decreased the number of pumpkins available for harvest, according to the Mississippi State University (MSU) Cooperative Extension Service. The good news is that the pumpkins that did make it to market are of higher quality than in past years.
“Unfortunately, growers lost 20 percent or more of their pumpkins in this part of the state,” said MSU Extension Service director for Yalobusha County Steve Cummings. “The rains delayed fungicide application, so some of the pumpkins were lost to rot.”
Cummings added that the pumpkins harvested were of good to excellent quality and are selling quickly.
“The conditions for planting pumpkins were good this year,” said Kyle Jeffreys, a sod farmer and pumpkin grower in Coffeeville in North Mississippi. “After that first month or so, we got some rain that drowned some of the vines. However, that didn’t affect them too much. It was 17 straight days of rain that really took a toll.”
Without timely fungicide applications, farmers lost a significant amount of their crop to stem rot.
“I lost about 20 percent to 30 percent of the pumpkin crop this year,” he said. “But, the quality of the harvested pumpkins was excellent. I’ve already sold all of them.”
Jeffreys grew 10 acres of pumpkins and sold approximately 10,000 to retailers and wholesalers in the state. He estimated that he would have had 33 percent more pumpkins for sale if he had been able to apply fungicide in a timely manner.
Jeffreys was actually fortunate. Andy Prosser, who heads up marketing at the Mississippi Department of Agriculture, said the rains that came and stayed in mid- to late October basically destroyed the state’s pumpkin crop. He said that pumpkins are not a major crop in Mississippi — the state only has a handful of growers — but it should not be ignored, especially when it comes to U-Pick gardens, agritourism operations that often offer a pumpkin patch.
Jolynn Mitchell of Mitchell Farms in Covington County is one of those producers. She said Mitchell Farms was fortunate in that it did not see the drowning rains as was experienced in North Mississippi. The farm’s pumpkin crop was a good one. However, rains have affected her operations.
“The rain has really hurt attendance in the pumpkin patch,” Mitchell said.
Some producers harvested early to avoid the rains. Those producers saw a great harvest.
“This is the best crop I’ve ever had,” said Reid Nevins, a Clay County Extension agent and pumpkin grower who harvested his four acres of pumpkins early. “We got them out of the fields and ready to go by Oct. 1.”
Nevins said buying was brisk, and his pumpkins averaged between 50-10 pounds each.
Ken Hood, Extension professor in the Department of Agricultural Economics at MSU, said, “Mississippi’s pumpkin crop has been spotty depending on what area of the state the pumpkins are in. Overall, there was a lot of loss.”
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