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Dry summer hasn't adversely affected Ohio pumpkin crop

Special to the Legal News

Published: September 27, 2012

Summer’s dry, hot and sometimes drought-like conditions shouldn’t put much of a damper on Halloween pumpkins this fall, according to an Ohio State University agriculture expert.

“They might come a little later and be a little smaller, but the good news is there’s also less disease,” said Jim Jasinski, of the OSU Extension.

He said it was a little tricky in the early part of the summer when temperatures throughout Ohio were steadily in the 90s just as the pumpkins were flowering.

“When it was 90 to 100 degrees, the pumpkins didn’t like that. They tend to drop their flowers when it’s that hot, especially their female flowers. Pumpkins have both male and female flowers,” said Jasinski. “But once we got past those temperatures the crop recovered.”

Pumpkins are most vulnerable when they’re flowering, he said.

Given the hot, dry summer many pumpkin growers needed to irrigate their crops, which might push up the price of pumpkins slightly, said Ethel Sullivan of Circle S Farms in Grove City.

“Pumpkins may cost a few cents more this year because of the growing situation. We haven’t set our prices just. We’re going to just start picking them (this week),” she said.

Sullivan said the arid summer was a bit of a challenge in growing her crop.

“When you have excessive temperatures day after day after day it affects anything that grows,” she said. “I think anytime you have a drought it does affect the size of the pumpkins.”

She said using trickle irrigation this year was essential to growing a good crop.

“If you didn’t have irrigation you would be affected a lot more,” Sullivan said. “It’ll cost a little more to grow the pumpkins this year.”

Pumpkins do require a lot of water — after all, they’re 90 percent water.

Jasinski said that one benefit to the dry summer was a much lower chance for pumpkins to contract disease, though there are other dangers due to the heat.

“They’re really more of a cooler season crop. Sitting out there in the hot sun pumpkins can get sunburn and if it gets too cold at night with frost and freezing temperatures, pumpkins don’t like that either,” he said.

He said despite the dry summer, this year’s pumpkin crop should generally be a good one.

At a recent visit to a Southwest Ohio farm the farm owner told him that his pumpkin production will be down, but only slightly, from last year.

Though corn and soybeans are by far the biggest crops in Ohio, pumpkins are also big business for the state’s farmers.

Ohio ranks fifth in the nation in pumpkin production. Illinois is the biggest producer followed by Pennsylvania, California and New York.

Sullivan said she expects plenty of good pumpkins awaiting the crowds that will visit her farm in the coming weeks to gather the pumpkins and participate in fall activities.

“I do see a good crop for the people coming out to pick them,” Sullivan said.

This is the 32nd year that Circle S Farms has been in the pumpkin business, she said.

“It’s become a tradition for people. We’re seeing people who came out as kids who are now bringing their children,” said Sullivan.

Last year many growers in the eastern portion of the U.S. had the opposite problem of this year — crop production was stinted because of too much wet weather, which drove up the price of pumpkins in some areas of the country.

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