Drought could create valuable crop

05/20/2014 11:18:00 AM
Melissa Shipman

Courtesy Idaho-Eastern Oregon Onion Committee/USA OnionsCindy Elrod, sales and new business development, Peri & Sons Farms Inc., Yerington, Nev., expects this year’s onion crop to be in high demand.

“We’re anticipating a valuable crop due to effects of the drought which resulted in acreage cuts in the San Joaquin Valley,” she said.

Elrod expects to market California onions from the Imperial Valley through May and onions from the San Joaquin Valley from June through August.

Despite potential drought issues, the New Mexico onion crop is looking to come in close to on schedule for the year, possibly a little early.

“We had a good, mild winter, so the crop looks really good. I think we should start the week of May 19,” said Bill Coombs, sales, Desert Spring Produce, Hatch, N.M.

“Our crop looks fantastic so far. We’ve had great weather and the harvest should commence around May 25, which is normal for our area,” said Chris Franzoy, president of Young Guns Produce Inc., Deming, N.M.

T.J. Runyan, owner of Mesilla Valley Produce, Hatch, N.M., agreed the onion crop looks good.

“It’s an excellent crop. Quality can probably be categorized as outstanding,” he said.

Corey Griswold, president, ProSource Inc., Hailey, Idaho, expects a reduction in yields from New Mexico and central California because of the drought and irrigation issues.

“I think both crops may suffer slight yield reductions,” Griswold said.

Still, he anticipates a solid season.

ProSource markets for Rincon, N.M.-based Lack Farms.

Chris Cramer, professor of horticulture at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, said the drought may affect yields, particularly in New Mexico where salty water can be an issue.

Though most growers don’t use surface water for irrigation, they do use surface water to help flush excess salt out of the ground water supply, something that hasn’t been done as frequently this year.

“A higher level of salt in the water, particularly early in the season, can be damaging to onions, causing a significant stand loss,” Cramer said.

It’s too early to tell just how affected the crop could be, but Cramer said it’s possible for yields to be down this year even more than they would be after the reduction in acreage.

Another result of the drought could be an increase in growers who use drip irrigation.

“It could cause growers to switch to drip irrigation if they can afford it, particularly in the river valley where a lot of production occurs,” Cramer said.

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