Torrential rains and flooding in the Salinas Valley has continued and many growers are looking to other areas for spring plantings.
Church Bros. Farms of Salinas, CA expects shipping gaps this spring for vegetables.
Normally leafy greens harvest in Salinas starts about April 1. That harvest date requires a Jan. 1 planting. Salinas growers – with those in much of California’s Central Valley – received constant waves of torrential rainfall through the first two weeks of January. The Salinas River is overflowing.
Cole crops in the Salinas Valley are planted in November and December. Those plantings are lost. Church reports two of its growers have 2,000 acres underwater. In all, 20,000 acres are flooded in the valley. However, the company is unsure exactly how much of that total is cultivated. Some of that acreage will have to be disked if it was already planted with crops.
The grower/shipper reports loss of acres could create a gap in April and the following months as there are new food safety rules in place which did not exist in 1995. These rules restrict planting fields that were affected by the flood waters for 60 days and the soil must be sufficiently dried out. After 30 days, growers have to test the soil again before it can plant.
The company indicates that the Salinas River level in 1995 reached 30 feet and the flood level was 23 feet. Church notes that in a recent comparison photo, the river was measured at 24.6 feet and the damage was nowhere near what it was in 1995.
Some growers were already shifting to plant in Yuma. That inherent danger is the potential crop-killing heat in April. If those fields can withstand heat through April 10-20 they will still be better off than trying to plant using a pontoon boat in Salinas. Other growers are planting in Mexico to compensate for saturated Salinas fields.