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Growers look back on the summer

The summer of 2018 will go down in history as the hottest, sunniest, and driest ever. These conditions had repercussions on the cultivation of the crops and caused concerns for our growers. The extremely hot weather complicated the control of supplies, which resulted in the delivery of large quantities of produce within a short timeframe. The produce also suffered from very high temperatures, and additional measures had to be implemented to assure the quality.

Shrink cracking was the most common quality problem with tomatoes. Theo van Vliet, tomato grower, says ‘The crop really suffered during the hot summer. The plants had difficulty with the large climate changes and the tomatoes developed thicker skins. This increased the tomatoes’ sensitivity to shrink cracking, in particular with the larger tomato varieties, which lost some of their gloss. This has caused a great deal of extra work for all tomato growers: we’ve spent a lot of time on sorting these tomatoes to continue to comply with the quality requirements.’

Sweet peppers suffered from problems including sunscalding, which causes black spots. In contrast to normal summers, when about 2% of the crop is rejected due to sunscalding, as much as 20% was rejected in some weeks during this summer. John Overgaag, sweet pepper grower, notes ‘It’s been a year of weather extremes, from a storm in January, a cold spring, several downpours in May to long, hot, and dry periods during the summer. This long hot period was particularly harmful to the quality of the sweet peppers, in part due to the very warm nights in which the plants could not recover fully and rest. This resulted in sweet peppers with a lower weight and a thinner flesh. We adapted our harvesting times to maintain the quality: we harvested to no later than 3 PM during the hot period, as the sweet peppers became too limp later in the afternoon. We, as Harvest House growers, are reviewing whether we could adopt a different or better approach that would limit the consequences of another hot, dry season. This could, for example, result in the adoption of specific varieties or other cultivation methods.’

Additional quality inspections were conducted further along in the chain, for example during the packaging of tomatoes and sweet peppers. In cooperation with the TNI and Harvest House inspection teams, the growers made every effort to supply produce of a quality worthy of Harvest House even in these extreme weather conditions.