Leaf Items & Berries Feel the Burn

Leafy Green Items

The heat is taking a toll on leaf items out west – especially in regards to specialty/tender leaf items. Romaine, Romaine hearts, Iceberg, and leaf lettuces will also be affected.  Supplies are tight and demand is increasing.

Lettuce and leaf crops that were recovering from the August heatwave when the fires were sparked are now plunged back into another difficult situation. Tip burn is rampant, sun scalding is present and plants, in general, are exhibiting signs of stress which show as twisting/elongated cores, plants wanting to flower and in extremes showing a bitter taste. Both yields and quality will be impacted by this second round of extreme heat that many crops have had to live through. Some fields will be left behind completely, and markets will likely show the impact of these stressors.

Growers and shippers are spending extra time in the field to harvest products with the least amount of damage.   These conditions will continue for about 2 weeks given the current weather forecasts.  Quality issues will be industry-wide.  At this point, Iceberg has felt the impact more than any other commodity with this latest heatwave.

As a result of the heat, Romaine and Romaine heart supplies will be tight for the coming weeks primarily due to heightened disease pressure of Sclerotinia and INSV, resulting in reduced yields. Sclerotinia is a fungus that will cause a brown, soft decay that eventually destroys the plant crown tissue. Older leaves then wilt and later the entire plant will wilt and collapse, making it unable to be harvested. Plant collapse usually occurs when lettuce is near maturity.

Besides Iceberg, Romaine, and Romaine Hearts, there is increased pressure on the following commodities:
∙             Cauliflower
∙             Broccoli
∙             Arugula
∙             Spinach
∙             Kale


More record high temperatures are in the forecast this weekend.   Salinas, Watsonville, and Santa Maria growing regions will see major heat beginning Friday. Temps are expected to reach the mid-80s to low 90s in the Coastal regions and well into the 100s inland by Sunday.  These conditions will affect all West Coast production ranging from strawberries, blackberries, and raspberries. Harvesting efforts have also been impacted due to high temperatures lessening the time frames laborers can harvest product. Expect strawberry shortages over the next few weeks.