Following the extreme weather events of the past year, less of Texas’ oft-forgotten strawberry crop will make its way to grocery store produce departments and farmers’ markets this summer.
AgriLife Today has described “roller-coaster conditions for Texas strawberries.” From sporadic freezes during the winter to the record-breaking heatwaves currently battering the state, local strawberry farmers are weathering unprecedented conditions that hamper harvest yields.
Russell Wallace, professor at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center, explained the growing process in Texas to KXAN:
“Producers actually start them in the fall. They grow in the fall. They overwinter because the strawberries need those colder temperatures in order to develop buds and flowers. Strawberry season can start as early as January in South Texas or where we’re at up in Lubbock. It’s about April … when we start picking.”
However, freezing temperatures can disrupt the growing process, damaging and killing flowers when it reaches 30 degrees Fahrenheit and below.
“The last couple of years, we’ve had some issues with freezing temperatures in the early year, and it’s knocked out flowers. It’s burned back some of the plants, and so growers have had a little struggle there in most of our production in the north and east Texas areas,” said Wallace.
While sporadic Texas freezes tend to make the growing season less predictable, the unrelenting heat has had the most significant impact this year. Strawberries are a cool-weather plant. Temperatures above 95 degrees Fahrenheit cause them to stop flowering.
As reported in The Dallas Express, the early onset of a record-breaking summer has slapped the state with several series of consecutive 100-degree days and no end in sight.
The repeated heatwaves effectively cut the strawberry season short. Many growers in South Texas stated it was their shortest season ever recorded, clocking roughly three weeks of picking, according to Wallace.
While Texas is not exactly known for growing strawberries, over 400 acres of crops are planted throughout the state annually. However, it is not in the top ten producing states in the country. Fewer than 1% of the nation’s strawberries are grown in Texas, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.