Climate Change Threatens US Pumpkin Harvest for Halloween

Climate change effects on pumpkin
Image courtesy: Firstpost

As Halloween approaches, the annual tradition of pumpkin carving and decorating is at risk due to the impact of climate change on pumpkin farming in the United States. The effects of climate change, including water scarcity and extreme heat, are taking a toll on pumpkin growers.

In northeast Colorado, Alan Mazzotti, a pumpkin farmer, faced a significant reduction in his water supply despite above-average snowfall in the Rocky Mountains. This forced him to plant only half of his usual pumpkin crop. Heavy rains in May and June further complicated the situation, rendering some fields unusable. Similar challenges are being felt by pumpkin growers in states like Texas, New Mexico, and Colorado, where drought and heat extremes have been exacerbated by human-caused climate change. Some farmers experienced yield losses of up to 20%, while others left portions of their land bare. Rising labor costs and inflation are squeezing profit margins, affecting their ability to supply pumpkins to retailers and pumpkin patches.

Pumpkins are resilient to hot and dry weather to some extent, but this year’s extreme heat, which saw temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit, proved too much for them. Mark Carroll, a Texas A&M extension agent, described it as one of the worst years for pumpkin farming in several years. The scorching weather, combined with rising irrigation costs due to declining groundwater levels, forced farmers to make difficult decisions about when to harvest their pumpkins.

In Texas, Lindsey Pyle, who farms nearly a thousand acres of pumpkins, saw her energy bills rise along with the costs of supplies, chemicals, and fuel. She also lost about 20% of her yield. Groundwater levels are steadily dropping, leading to high energy bills for pumping water, and this issue affects farmers across the region. The decreasing rainfall and snowfall caused by climate change make it unlikely that aquifers will replenish any time soon.

For some farmers, like Jill Graves in Texas, the challenges have led them to source pumpkins from wholesalers rather than growing their own. However, the pumpkins obtained from wholesalers had shorter shelf lives, making the situation far from ideal.

While water scarcity is a critical concern, labor costs have become an even greater challenge. Colorado recently implemented a law mandating overtime pay for farmworkers, further straining the competitiveness of pumpkin farmers compared to areas with lower labor costs. Mazzotti, a pumpkin farmer in Colorado, acknowledges the difficult situation and doubts the sustainability of pumpkin farming in the future, lamenting that his sons won’t continue the family tradition.

In conclusion, climate change is putting pressure on pumpkin farming in the US, affecting both the quantity and quality of pumpkins available for Halloween celebrations.

Re-reported from the article originally published in The Firstpost

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