Vegetable production off to a slow start in West Central Michigan

A cool, wet spring has meant a delayed start for West Central Michigan’s asparagus and carrot growers.

According to the 30-year normals, Hart, Michigan, is over two weeks behind average. Wet soil conditions have significantly delayed carrot planting. Growers would normally have completed planting by now, but most carrot growers are not done yet, although planters have been rolling steadily all week in an effort to catch up.

A few asparagus spears have began to emerge earlier this week in fields without rye cover crops, but certainly not enough to worry about frosting the next couple of mornings. This appears to be one of those years where rye cover crops seem to be holding back emergence of spears. Most growers with rye cover have completed their initial mowing operation and many will have completed the second, closer mowing by the end of this week. I hear many growers now talking about kicking off harvest between May 10 and May 15. While a lot of residual herbicides have already been applied to asparagus fields, those growers who have not finished need to switch to shorter pre-harvest interval materials. High afternoon winds have been a serious impediment to application of pesticides.

On the asparagus marketing front, even with the higher prices being offered for processed asparagus, high enough that they are competitive with fresh prices, it appears that there will not be enough asparagus available to fill all contracts. This is due to a combination of factors. Phytophthora asparagi infection of many fields has seriously degraded yields and shortened life expectancy. Growers have been unable to replant fields because of a general unavailability of seed for some of the more desirable varieties. This situation is not likely to change until asparagus seed production catches up with demand. That could well take a couple of more years.

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