Monday, October 12, 2015
Now global warming threatens pumpkin pie!
Since I had never heard of canned pumpkin, I was not much energized by this story. Where I grew up in the tropics, people rarely bought pumpkin in any form. It arrived free. Pumpkin vines are very prolific so anyone with a fruiting vine would have lots to give away to friends and neighbours. They would just be handed over the fence. Our tropical species of pumpkin -- which we call "bugelhorn" -- is so vigorous that it's like a triffid. It will cover your backyard in no time if you let it. So if we ever do get global warming, there are some delicious tropical pumpkins awaiting -- and they will probably be free!
"Bugelhorn" pumpkins seem to be unknown to the internet but I have eaten lots of them. They are a long fruit rather than a spherical one -- a bit like a huge cucumber. Take a trip to Cairns and buy one in Rusty's bazaar. You won't be disappointed. Cairns is a popular tropical resort anyway.
Not that the report below is about global warming. It's about rain. And no attempt at linking variable rain to global warming is even attempted. Variable rain is of course, and always has been, the bane of farmers the world over. A farmer is a rural gambler and rain is a big part of the gamble
The potential consequences of climate change are pretty well known: rising sea levels, global food insecurity, more frequent and extreme wildfires, stronger storms. But what you might not know is that climate change could also threaten your holiday slice of pumpkin pie.
This year, Libby’s Pumpkin — which supplies more than 85 percent of the world’s canned pumpkin — is anticipating that their annual pumpkin yields will be reduced by half due to an unusually rainy late spring and early summer.
The company, which is owned by Nestle, is headquartered in Morton, Illinois — the self-proclaimed pumpkin capital of the world. Ninety percent of the United States’ pumpkins are grown within a 90-mile radius of Peoria, Illinois, which is just 10 miles from Morton. When we ship the last of the 2015 crop — in early November — we will be left with no reserves.
Illinois experienced record-setting precipitation in June, with more than nine inches falling over most of the state throughout the month — 5.33 inches above average. From May through July, prime growing months for the kinds of processing pumpkins found throughout Illinois, the state received almost two feet of rain — 10.4 inches above average, according to Jim Angel, Illinois’ state climatologist. “This year’s harvest was reduced because rains came early in the season during a critical growth period,” Roz O’Hearn, corporate and brand affairs director for Nestle USA, told ThinkProgress. “The result: not as many pumpkins formed from the flowers.”
Normally, Libby’s harvests pumpkins from late August through the end of October or early November, but this year, the harvest ended on October 5, almost a month early, due to poor yields. “We originally reported our yield could be off by as much as a third, but updated crop reports indicate yields will be reduced by half this year,” O’Hearn said.
O’Hearn told ThinkProgress that Libby’s anticipates having enough product to get customers through the Thanksgiving holiday, but expects that holiday demand will completely deplete their stock, leaving nothing in reserve. That means that once Libby’s makes its final shipment of canned pumpkin — probably around the beginning of November — there will be no extra canned pumpkin to stock shelves.
At a Senate roundtable last week on climate change and food production, Nestle’s president of corporate affairs Paul Bakus spoke of declines in Libby’s pumpkin harvests. The last time Libby’s was hit with a shortage of similar magnitude was 2009, when two times the normal amount of precipitation fell during the harvest, causing tractors to become trapped in the mud and unable to reach the pumpkins before their quality degraded beyond Libby’s standards for harvest. When pumpkins sit on saturated soil for too long, O’Hearn explained, it negatively affects their quality, creating an environment conducive to blight and mildew.
Over the past century, Angel points out on his blog that Illinois’ average precipitation has increased by between 10 and 15 inches, depending on location. In central Illinois, where Libby’s pumpkin growing operation is located, May through June precipitation has increased by an average of two inches (though Angel points out notable exceptions, like drought years in 1988, 2005, and 2012). For the entire state of Illinois, four of the 10 rainiest Junes on record have occurred since 2010.
Posted by John J. Ray (M.A.; Ph.D.).