Heavy rains that soaked south Louisiana in early January were not what strawberry farmers needed. LSU AgCenter county agent Sandra Benjamin in Tangipahoa Parish said the amount of rain in her area caused a setback to production.
“In two weeks, some areas in the parish had as much as 13 inches of rain,” she said. “Farmers were not able to get in fields to control diseases.”
The pressure of diseases increased and caused a lot of bad berries, Benjamin said. “A lot of strawberries had to be thrown away due to gray mold and rot.”
During the periods of light rain, however, farmers were able to pick some of their berries to sell.
“The weather we are having now is good for the berries,” Benjamin said. “The coming days should be sunny, which will allow the fields to dry up.”
The nights will be cool, which is still better than the rain, according to growers like Eric Morrow in Ponchatoula.
Morrow said the good thing for growers is flooding didn’t catch the main crop with many blooms. He said with the 10 to 12 days of dry weather predicted, the crop should be helped.
“There’s always a little something going on out there,” he said. “We’re always spraying and maintaining our fields. It’s nothing that we haven’t seen before.”
Growers normally start picking the early berries in November, but their main crop comes in during March and April.
“Those are the berries that are beginning to bloom now,” Morrow said. “We’re picking a few now, but they will really pick up in the next 30 days.”
Benjamin said the farmers are covering the fields on cold nights to protect the berries that should be ready to harvest in a few days.
“Wholesalers and retailers are already putting in their strawberry orders for Valentine’s Day because they are aware there may be a shortage due to the flooding,” she said.