Farmers predict fewer, smaller pumpkins

CNJ staff photo: Benna Sayyed Seasonal employees at the Davis Farms Pumpkin Patch prepare pumpkins to be shipped commercially. The farm has managed to thrive despite the pumpkin shortage that has severely affected West Texas farmers and decreased business for New Mexico farmers.

Benna Sayyed

Pumpkins will be fewer and smaller in size this Halloween, according to local farmers.

Eastern New Mexico farmers are experiencing drops of 20 to 30 percent lower than usual.

Extreme drought and heat took its toll, they said.

“We irrigate our pumpkins, but there is just nothing you can do about 100-degree days,” said Kenneth Davis, owner of Davis Farms Pumpkin Patch north of Clovis. “If that happens you are going to get low pollination, and therefore low yields. About all you can do is hope and pray that don’t happen.”

“We have seen other years that had a short supply but I think this is the worst I’ve ever seen,” said Davis, who has been pumpkin farming for 23 years. There’s no doubt about that.”

Davis said that New Mexico’s pumpkin yield is about 80 percent of normal.

According to Davis, blistering temperatures prevent bees from being as active. This causes pumpkin blossoms to fall off of the vine without being pollinated, and, as a result, no fruit is produced.

“I would tell people to go shopping early and get ready to pay for them because the price is up as a result of the shortage. Some people are going to have to do without; there are not as many pumpkins as there usually is,” said Davis.

It could be worse.

Russ Wallace of the Texas AgriLife Extension Service tells the Dallas Morning News that the weight of the state’s harvested crop is expected to be 40 to 50 percent lower than normal, while Hurricane Irene took its toll on crops on the East Coast.

Scott Meeks, partner of Pumpkin Patch in Clovis, said his crop of ornamental pumpkins has dropped by 30 percent this year. The size of pumpkins has also decreased. What is normally a 16-to-18 pound pumpkin is a 12-to-14 pounder this year.

Meeks said that New Mexico farmers are shipping pumpkins all over the country to offset a national shortage.

“You take the drought here in the West and the flooding in the East, and you’re looking at a national shortage,” Meeks said.

According to Meeks, the state’s low humidity, cool nighttime temperatures, high altitude, and dry climate are conducive to pumpkin growth.

Most of the Texas’ pumpkins come from West Texas. Farmers used soaker hoses and irrigation in attempt to keep pumpkin vines moist, but Wallace says high temperatures simply shut down plants.