Drought takes toll on Texas pumpkin patch
Dr. Russ Wallace, AgriLife Extension vegetable specialist at Lubbock, said pumpkins, like all Texas vegetables in 2011, had a hard time struggling through the record-setting high temperatures, low humidity and drought conditions.
“With only limited rainfall, the quality of the pumpkin fruit itself should be excellent, but I expect the overall production will be much less than normal,” Wallace said. “I visited with Mark Carroll, AgriLife Extension agent in Floyd County, which is normally our leading pumpkin producing county in Texas. He told me he estimates the actual size of the pumpkins along with the yields this year will be roughly half what they normally are.”
So what does this mean for the annual trek to the pumpkin patch for Halloween? Wallace said the shortage in West Texas, coupled with reduced yields from pumpkin growers in the Northeast due to flooding from Hurricane Irene, will likely result in fewer pumpkins, higher demand and higher prices.
Each year, Wallace grows up to 40 pumpkin varieties in replicated trials at the Texas AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Lubbock. This year, he had 25 varieties and said each of them struggled to make a decent crop. “Our small pie and mini-pumpkins don’t appear to have suffered much, but the mid- to large-sized varieties grew vines at a slow pace during the high temperatures and really struggled to set fruit,” he said.
“About the only good news for the High Plains pumpkin crop this year was that the low humidity reduced the incidents of disease, especially powdery mildew, which infects pumpkin leaves and reduces yield and quality,” he said.
“Severe powdery mildew infections can lead to mushy stems or infected fruit, so when shopping for melons, check out the ‘handle.’ If it’s soft, it may be infected and not last until Halloween. If it’s a High Plains Texas pumpkin though, that shouldn’t be a problem this year.”