The recent heatwave that brought triple-digit temperatures to much of California appears to have had a mixed impact on cucurbit production. Van Groningen and Sons harvests watermelons from June all the way into October. VP of Crops and Soils, Bryan Van Groningen noted that the high temperatures in the middle of August actually provided some benefits to their watermelon crops.
“This heat actually induced a lot of extra growth. The vines put on more flowers. They’re setting more fruit. It almost jumpstarted a couple fields just to kind of get them to become vigorous again and growing,” Van Groningen noted. “The fields that were in good shape, that were healthy, that were strong, [the heat] really seemed to kind of invigorate them.”
California was ranked third for watermelon production in the U.S. in 2018, producing nearly 360,000 tons. While excessive heat can often create problems in cucurbit production, the most recent heatwave was welcome news for at least one watermelon grower. “I think its kind of set us up for the months of September and October to have a good watermelon harvest to finish out the season,” said Van Groningen.
PUMPKIN CROP TELLS A DIFFERENT STORY
As not all cucurbit production is the same, the hot weather created some issues for some of Van Groningen’s pumpkin fields. Pumpkins that were set just prior to have onset of triple-digit temperatures were significantly damaged, turning yellow in the fields. “They were just flaking right off. I think potentially we probably lost up to maybe 25 percent of our crop in some of those fields,” Van Groningen noted.
Pumpkins do not respond well when temperatures reach more than 100 degrees, preferring more of a mild environment. Van Groningen explained that some of their pumpkin fields reached temperatures of 109 degrees. Despite the damage caused by the heatwave, there is still time in the season to potentially offset some of the setbacks in production. “We’re hoping the temperatures will go back down to more of a mild temperature and those fields can probably still recover and maybe set more fruit over the next two or three weeks to make up for that lost yield,” said Van Groningen.