Vegetables Add Diversity to Crop Production
Fresh Cucumbers from the field

There’s a vast array of both processing and fresh vegetables being grown in Michigan and Wisconsin, and this year’s bounty looks to be plentiful.

From snap beans and potatoes to carrots and kale, harvest is underway, and in the case of asparagus, already complete.

In Michigan, the volume for processing asparagus was up from the previous year, while fresh asparagus was down, according to John Bakker, who runs the asparagus research farm in Hart and is the executive director of the Michigan Asparagus Advisory Board. Overall, he says, production was right around normal for the state with 21 million pounds.

As the U.S. leader in processing snap beans, Wisconsin is again harvesting a good crop and looks to be online with last year, where production of snap beans for processing totaled 322,875 tons and was valued at $35.5 million, according to USDA. Last year, if the state’s 105,000 cwt. harvest of fresh snap beans are included, Wisconsin produced a total of 6.65 million cwt. of the country’s 18 million cwt.

With approximately 10 million acres of farmland and 52,194 farms, the economic impact of Michigan’s fruit and vegetable production is $758 million and $673 million, respectively.

“While Michigan is widely known as the top tart cherry producer in the country, most don’t know that the Great Lakes State is also the leader in pickling cucumbers,” explains Jeff Ginter, Financial Services Officer for GreenStone Farm Credit Services in Berrien and VanBuren counties.

Cucumber, zucchini and bell pepper growers in that county had plenty of rain early in the season, making it a challenge for planting and laying plastic, he says. Those rains, in excess in parts of Berrien County, have continued throughout the season. “These crops are mostly grown under trickle irrigation, so growers would rather control it,” Ginter adds. “Growers are saying yields are decent but will probably be down some for cucumbers and zucchini in September because of the weather. Peppers continue to do well.”

Meanwhile, a good portion of Michigan has struggled with drought conditions in the beginning of the season, causing lower than normal pickle yields and some quality issues, according to Katie Hensley of Swanson Pickles out of Ravenna, northwest of Grand Rapids.

Disease conditions have been relatively light. “Last year we saw downy mildew first confirmed in Michigan on June 30, 2017,” Hensley says. “This year it was confirmed a full month later, with the first reported on June 30, 2018.  This month without downy was good. However, it was probably only possible due to the drought conditions, which downy doesn’t like.”

Downy mildew is now in multiple counties in Michigan, and Michigan State University is advising fungicide sprays for cucumbers and melons (watermelons, cantaloupe, muskmelon).  “Across Michigan at this point, it looks like pickles will be short of original targets,” Hensley adds.

The lack of rain in southeast Michigan, has meant additional cost associated with running irrigation systems, especially for tomatoes in that region, says Greg Bird, executive director of Michigan Vegetable Council.

Squash season in northwest Michigan is going very well and far ahead of schedule with the hot weather, he says, while noting that spraying for mildew was down early in the season.

Michigan ranks high – second in the country – for fresh market carrots and celery production. Carrots continued to make good progress although disease pressure was reportedly high, USDA says. Onion harvest began in mid-August in the west central region, while kale, green beans, squash, and zucchini were continuing to be harvested. Pumpkins are sizing, while bell pepper and sweet corn harvest was ongoing. Pea harvest was winding down in the central region.

For processing vegetables, Wisconsin’s hot and dry summer has caused some issues, but nothing very serious so far, according to the Aug. 19 issue of Vegetable Crop Update, a newsletter produced by the University of Wisconsin-Madison vegetable research and extension specialists. It was reported that:

• Green bean harvest has been more than half way done. Yield is close to normal year average, although some fields suffered from blossom falling off due to the hot weather. With the growing of the vines, white mold has been observed recently, but well under control. No noticeable brown spot issues at this point.

• Sweet corn harvest has been about 40% done. Yield and quality has been good, very little disease and insects issues this year. However for the bicolor varieties, which tend to be more susceptible to heat stress, yield reduction is substantial.

• Beets have been showing lower-than-normal yield too. The hot season has led to a large amount of oversized or undersized beets, which will make processing harder.

• Peas in Wisconsin are doing fine. Except that the hot weather resulted in some seed filling gaps in the pods on some fields.

• Carrots, with strong top parts, are looking good.

USDA estimates summer potato production for the country at 19.75 million cwt. this year. That is down 1.93 million cwt. from 2017 production, an 8.9% decline. The downturn includes reductions of 34.9% in North Carolina, 19.1% in Missouri, and 18.1% in Maryland.

Last year Wisconsin harvested 67,000 acres of potatoes with a value of more than $350 million. Growers are anticipating a near average crop for 2018, although size profiles could be down in some areas because of dry conditions and heat stress.

Northern Wisconsin has had light precipitation, and non-irrigated crops were showing significant stress. Dry conditions had crops maturing rapidly, and some fields were injured enough that they may not fully mature, USDA reports.

Potato late blight was confirmed in Michigan’s southeast region where growers are encouraged to be vigilant in scouting efforts, MSU advises.

Michigan has a long tradition of potato production. It is the nation's leading producer of summer or "new" potatoes (with red skins) and potatoes for chip processing. Last year, 45,000 acres of potatoes were harvested with a value of $175 million. Harvest begins in July and ends in October, with Montcalm and Bay counties being major producers of potatoes. 

Be sure to stop by the GreenStone booth at Great Lakes Fruit, Vegetable, and Farm Market Expo is Dec. 4-6 at the Devos Place Conference Center and Amway Grand Plaza Hotel in Grand Rapids.

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