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September 4, 2002

Not enough pumpkins to fill pie demands, experts say

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. – When children carve jack-o'-lanterns for their front porch this Halloween, they may notice their creations aren't as scary because of the smaller pumpkins and gourds throughout Indiana and surrounding states.

Rainfall was abruptly cut in half this summer, causing a problem for pumpkin and gourd farmers throughout most of the state, said Indiana's acting state climatologist Ken Scheeringa. The drought, which coincided with prime planting time in June and July, caused severe losses.

"Pumpkin growers have suffered the worst losses," said Dan Egel, a Cooperative Extension plant pathologist at Southwest-Purdue Agricultural Center in Vincennes, Ind.

While pumpkins are grown throughout Indiana, losses will be concentrated in the southern part of the state, especially in the southwest. Egel said he expects this year's yields to be 10 percent to 20 percent lower than last year.

The rainfall in Indiana during the period of April through June 15 averages a total of 10.52 inches, while this year's rainfall for that span was 14.80 inches. Total rainfall for June 15 through the month of August was 2.5 inches less this year than the state's average, Scheeringa said.

"Pumpkins and gourds are ripening smaller and sooner this year," Egel said.

This means that pumpkins will be ready for market before peak purchasing times. Farmers must decide whether to store them or have them rot in the field, said Egel. Retailers also may be looking to buy from growers in other states.

Some growers have suffered complete crop failure due to the lack of rainfall. Most pumpkin and gourd growers do not irrigate their crops, unlike the majority of watermelon growers.

The growing season's lack of rain, however, has helped many farmers without irrigation save money due to fewer disease problems. Some farmers have spent a third less on pesticides this year compared to last year, Egel said.

Writer: Michelle Betz, (765) 494-8402, news_students@aes.purdue.edu

Sources: Dan Egel, (812) 886-0198, egel@purdue.edu

Ken Scheeringa, (765) 494-8105, kens@purdue.edu

Ag Communications: (765) 494-2722; Beth Forbes, bforbes@aes.purdue.edu; http://www.agriculture.purdue.edu/AgComm/public/agnews/

Related Web sites:
Agricultural Statistics Service
Applied Meteorology Group

Purdue News Service: (765) 494-2096; purduenews@purdue.edu


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