COLUMBUS, Ohio — Ohio farmers harvested fewer pumpkins this year compared to the 2014 crop, and the fruits are smaller than usual, according to experts with the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.
“Growers faced significant challenges during both ends of the growing season in 2015,” said Jim Jasinski, Ohio State University Extension educator and coordinator of the Integrated Pest Management program. OSU Extension is the statewide outreach arm of the college.
“A wet spring and early summer delayed seeding past the optimal planting window, which is early June to late June or early July,” he said. “Sporadic heavy rains flooded fields and drowned out many pumpkin seedlings around the state, and then most of the state experienced near drought-like conditions from mid-July through August.”
In addition to unfavorable weather conditions, the state’s pumpkin crop was also affected by downy mildew, a disease that destroyed a significant amount of pumpkin leaf canopy, according to Jasinski.
Finally, the lack of rain during the latter part of the growing season impacted the development of fruit. “Since pumpkins are mostly water, they didn’t size as big as they normally would have, unless they were irrigated,” Jasinski explained.
As a result of all these factors, Jasinski estimated the pumpkin market in Ohio is down by about 20 percent, compared to a normal year. However, this is not expected to significantly impact pumpkin prices.
“Prices might be slightly higher, but more likely prices will remain the same and the fruit will be slightly smaller,” he said. “The prices I’ve seen at the big-box stores are comparable to what I’ve seen in the past three to five years. But if you haven’t gone to your local pumpkin patch yet, my advice is to not wait until the last minute and shop early for best selection.”
With an average of 7,000 acres of the crop, Ohio is one of the top producers of the large, carving type of pumpkins, usually ranking between third and fifth in the country.
“The farm gate value of Ohio pumpkins can be as high as $15 million to $20 million annually, providing a substantial late-season cash influx to most farm operations,” Jasinski said.
Ohio State conducts research on pumpkin varieties as well as on pest and disease control at the Western Agricultural Research Station located in South Charleston, Clark County. The station is part of the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center, which is the research arm of the college.