US: Specialty crops took hard hit in 2022, drought responsible for lower yields

Severe drought and some of the highest temperatures seen in years caused many Arkansas fruit and nut crops to suffer yield losses in 2022. July and August had less than average rainfall throughout the state, resulting in severe or moderate drought conditions for much of the state, according to the United States Drought Monitor.

In southern Arkansas, the commercial tomato crop also faced challenges due to weather-related issues. John Gavin, Bradley County agricultural extension agent for the Division of Agriculture, explained that the hot summer temperatures impeded the fruit production. “High temperatures in early June reduced fruit set in the top of the plants,” he said. “Later in June, daily temperatures were excessive and began to take their toll on the plants. Producers were challenged to rotate irrigation applications to meet the crop needs, but producers were harvesting good volume and quality fruit.”

The high-quality fruit and volume did not last after downpours in July, he said. “Unexpected heavy rain — up to six inches in some places — in the first part of July, followed by excessively hot, dry weather, reduced fruit quality to the point that harvesting was stopped earlier than usual,” Gavin said. “During harvest, the demand for Arkansas tomatoes remained strong, resulting in higher than normal average prices.”

The strawberry crop suffered due to weather, and the season was shorter than normal for producers, said Matthew Davis, Jackson County agricultural extension agent for the Division of Agriculture. “Temperatures exceeding 85 degrees Fahrenheit and wet conditions provide the perfect environment for fruit loss and quality reduction,” Davis said. “Local producers still met demand but did not have excess production and cut the season short by two weeks.”


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