October 31, 2016
Plenty of pumpkins in 2016 despite wet harvest season
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Consumers should have no trouble finding the perfect pumpkin for their fall celebrations this year, despite a wet harvest season that affected some crops, said a Purdue Extension plant pathologist.
Dry weather in June and July was followed by unusually wet conditions in August, a pattern that reversed normal rainfall trends, said Dan Egel, clinical engagement associate professor at the Southwest Purdue Agricultural Center. Pumpkins are typically already developing in the fields by August and exposure to extra moisture late in the season can put the fruit at risk for rot or blight, especially if the field does not drain well.
"There is a particular blight that loves wet weather, called Phytophthora blight," Egel said. "It's a cousin to the fungus that caused late blight on potatoes in the 1800s. In fact, it's actually an algae, not a true fungus - hence its love for water. It primarily spreads by splashing or flowing water, but at one stage of its life cycle, the spores can actually swim."
While Egel's description of Phytophthora blight seems like the plot of a Halloween thriller - its Latin name translates to "plant destroyer" - he stressed that the organism is not harmful to humans and did not affect the number of pumpkins available to consumers.
"There will be plenty of pumpkins for everybody," Egel said. "I don't think consumers will see any shortages."
Whether the goal is to eat or carve, Egel said that color and firmness are the keys to choosing a fresh pumpkin, especially the color of the stem. A green or dark brown stem means a fresher pumpkin, while a dry, light brown stem means the pumpkin is older. Mold around the stem could mean the stem is about to come loose from the pumpkin.
Egel also advised consumers to inspect the pumpkin for holes or wounds, as well as feeling it for soft spots. Bumps, he said, are not usually a problem.
It is also important for consumers to know the difference between pumpkins for eating and pumpkins for carving. Edible pumpkins, also known as sugar or pie pumpkins, are typically smaller than a volleyball, but consumers should ask if they are not sure which kind of pumpkin they are buying.
"Everyone will find their own pumpkin that they like," Egel said. "Maybe even Charlie Brown."
Writer: Jessica Merzdorf, 765-494-7719, email@example.com
Source: Daniel Egel, 812-886-0198, firstname.lastname@example.org