Jan 21, 2006
Fresh Vegetable Harvested Acreage Up 2 Percent

The prospective area for harvest of 11 selected fresh-market vegetables during the winter quarter is forecast at 183,900 acres, according to USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service. This is 2 percent above 2005 and 3 percent greater than 2004. Acreage increases for carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, snap beans, spinach and broccoli more than offset decreases for tomatoes, sweet corn, celery, bell pepper and head lettuce.

Snap Beans
Florida area for harvest is forecast at 13,200 acres, up 6 percent from last year and 10 percent above 2004. Some acreage south of Lake Okeechobee and in the Miami-Dade County area was replanted after damage from Hurricane Wilma. Mostly mild conditions since the hurricane have aided crop growth.

California harvested area is forecast at 27,500 acres, 4 percent above both 2005 and 2004. A series of storms passed through Southern California in late December and early January, bringing cold temperatures and much rain. Some flooding occurred due to breached levees and overflowing rivers. If conditions improve, favorable yields are possible, as growers allocated the most fertile fields to vegetables. No major pest or disease problems have been reported this season.

Winter acreage for harvest is forecast at 13,900 acres, 10 percent more than 2005 and up 11 percent from 2004. In Florida, Hurricane Wilma slowed planting of the winter crop around Hastings, with only minor damage from the storm’s wind and rain. Some southern peninsula acreage was damaged by the hurricane. Harvesting in other central and southern peninsula areas started by the first of December, with producers marketing very light amounts. The Texas crop did well early in the season under perfect growing conditions. Some irrigation was needed as the weather became cool and dry during crop development. The last week of December brought hot weather, which the crop did not tolerate as well.

Winter harvested acreage is forecast at 23,500 acres, up 21 percent from last year and 11 percent more than two years ago. The California crop is growing well, with very few problems. High demand for baby carrots continues. The Texas carrot crop is progressing well in the San Antonio-Winter Garden area.

California acreage is forecast at 9,000 acres, up 18 percent from 2005 and 20 percent greater than 2004. A series of storms passed through the coastal and southern areas of California in late December and early January, bringing cold temperatures and much rain. It is unknown at this time how flooding from the storms will affect the cauliflower crop. No disease or pest problems have developed.

The winter celery crop for harvest in California is forecast at 7,200 acres, down 5 percent from last year and 6 percent below the year before. In Oxnard, the winter celery crop is in good condition. Minimal flooding and damage from the recent rainfall was reported.

Sweet Corn
Florida harvested area is forecast at 7,200 acres, 8 percent less than last year and 14 percent below 2004. Hurricane Wilma caused major damage and losses to sweet corn acreage in the Miami-Dade County area in late October. A few growers righted stalks blown over by Wilma’s strong winds in the days following the storm. Mostly mild conditions since the storm aided replanting and crop growth. Harvesting began by early October, with small amounts available during November and December.

Head Lettuce
Area for harvest is forecast at 63,000 acres, down 2 percent from last year but 2 percent above the year before. In Arizona, harvest began two weeks earlier than normal in November because of above average temperatures during the growing season. Quality was good during November. In December, crews had to wait up to six hours on some days to harvest because of ice on the lettuce. This caused variable quality during December. The California desert lettuce crop is doing well this season. Harvest began earlier than usual. Temperatures began to drop the first week of December, which slowed development and delayed harvest, creating a small supply gap that caused higher lettuce prices.

Growers intend to plant 40,600 acres of spring onions for 2006, up 2 percent from both 2005 and 2004. In Arizona, planting began in January. California onion growers began planting in October. Onion fields have shown good growth in many areas following recent rains and overall good growing conditions. In Georgia, transplanting was 38 percent complete as of the third week of November. November was drier than normal and December has had normal rainfall. No disease problems have been reported and plants are in good condition. Texas growers intend to plant more onions this season. The onion crop is progressing well across the state.

Bell Peppers
Winter acreage in Florida is forecast at 6,200 acres, 2 percent below last year but 2 percent above 2004. Bell peppers grown in the southern peninsula suffered significant damage from Hurricane Wilma in October. Drier weather around Jupiter, Stuart, Immokalee and Homestead during November helped drain fields saturated by Wilma’s rain. Dry weather continued into December, which allowed planting and harvesting to progress on schedule.

Harvested area of winter spinach in Texas is forecast at 2,200 acres, an increase of 5 percent from 2005 and 10 percent more than the 2004 crop. Growers report outstanding quality and good yields for this season’s crop.

Planted acreage for the major states (California, Florida and Oregon) is forecast at 46,300 acres, up 4 percent for the same states last year and 6 percent above those same states in 2004. In California, increases in acreage are reported in most major growing areas. December rains helped to strengthen plants; however, a series of storms in late December and early January caused flooding in some areas. Preparation for the Florida winter crop began at the end of September as growers laid plastic and started transplanting. The strawberry crop received no damage from Hurricane Wilma at the end of October, at which time 90 percent of the winter crop had been transplanted. Cool temperatures during November and December boosted berry development but slowed plant growth. Picking began by Thanksgiving. In Oregon, growers are pessimistic about this season’s crop. Labor shortages, high labor costs and mold caused by excess moisture have led to higher abandonment of strawberry acreage this season. Growers may not harvest as much if prices continue to be low.

Florida winter tomato acreage is forecast at 11,000 acres, down 12 percent from 2005 and 15 percent below 2004. Hurricane Wilma caused major damage and losses to the tomato crop in the areas of Immokalee, Jupiter, Stuart, Palmetto-Ruskin and Miami-Dade during late October. Mostly mild conditions in November and December aided replanting and crop growth, with acreage planted after the storm reported in good condition. Growers in the Quincy area extended harvest by almost two months to help close the gap in supplies from the central and southern peninsula. Producers started picking acreage hurt by Wilma in early January.

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