As Halloween approaches, growers in the area say, despite heavy rains, this year’s pumpkin harvest appears to be average to above average.
“The weather this year was perfect for growing a lot of things, including pumpkins” said Megan Coopey, owner of Way Fruit Farm, Port Matilda. “A perfect combination of sun and rain for central Pennsylvania means our pumpkin plants are thriving.”
“Our harvest is better than average with very beautiful colors,” said Evelyn Bookhammer, co-owner of JB Tree Farm on Route 22 near Alexandria. “No matter how much we irrigate, natural rain always makes things grow better.”
Harner Farms, State College, also had a good year of growth.
“It’s a good harvest this year, better than average,” Chris Harner said. “Last year we had a drought.
Thomas G. Ford, commercial horticulture educator for Penn State Extension, said this year’s crop is average in terms of yield.
But, the average is better than some farmers expected, said Bill Zeiders, spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Farm Bureau.
“Some farmers were worried in the spring when they planted their pumpkins and squash because it was wet and the seeds did not germinate very well,” he said. “Then it got dry and some were worried that they wouldn’t get a marketable crop. “
Then some heavy rains later in the season “Brought enough moisture to produce an average crop for them, which is better than they expected” Zeiders said.
Bookhammer said she has more varieties than usual.
“We planted quite a few unusual varieties, mainly for stacking pumpkins, which is a popular thing.” she said, explaining that the stacking is done with pumpkins that grow rather flat. “You can stack four or five of different sizes and colors” said Bookhammer.
The weather this summer, which included torrential rains from the remnants of Hurricane Ida, caused some problems.
“The most recent tropical depression which caused torrential rains damaged / destroyed low lying fields in some areas, particularly in eastern Pennsylvania” said Ford. “When weather events like this strike, it impacts pumpkin supplies, which can lead to localized shortages in some communities and higher prices.”
The supply of pumpkins in Blair County looks good, Ford said.
“The weather made them turn orange a little earlier than normal”, Coopey said, “which only means that they may not stay firm as long as usual in the season, but should not affect the average pumpkin shopper.”
The disease pressure was high due to the heat and humidity associated with the periodic torrential rains.
“Powdery mildew, plectosporium blight and fusarium fruit rot were the predominant diseases observed in pumpkin fields” said Ford.
In fields that were affected by torrential rains, phytophthora blight has been observed. Downy mildew can destroy an entire crop of pumpkins in a matter of days.
“Unfortunately, some growers have lost a significant portion of their pumpkin harvest in western and eastern Pennsylvania,” he added. said Ford.
Powdery mildew is common, Harner said. “It depends where you are. You need to track your fungicides.
We grow traditional orange pumpkins, but also white, bumpy, blue / green and chunky pumpkins so everyone can decorate fall in their own way, ”Coopey said.
According to statistics from the United States Department of Agriculture, Pennsylvania ranks seventh in the country in pumpkin production, with about 73.5 million pounds in 2020, up 11% from the estimate of 2019, according to King Whetstone, USDA director of national agricultural statistics. Service, Northeast Regional Office.
Average yield per acre was estimated at 105,000 pounds, unchanged from the previous year. Harvested area was estimated at 7,000 acres, up 11% from 2019. Production value totaled $ 22.5 million, up 34% from 2019.
For those looking for the perfect pumpkin this fall, Coopey offers some tips.
“Always look for strong, firm stems and you will end up with a pumpkin that will last all fall for you.
Mirror staff writer Walt Frank is at 814-946-7467.