Weather produces a smaller N.H. pumpkin crop

Foul weather nearly smashed this year’s pumpkin crop but as Halloween and Thanksgiving approach, there should be plenty of gourds to go round.Five weeks of rain has caused the emergence of two types of fungus and, according to George Hamilton, Hillsborough County Cooperative Extension agent, the pumpkin crop will be smaller this year because of that. And some may have a few skin blemishes.“The farmers couldn’t get onto the fields to put on the protective spray,” Hamilton said. “Once it has set, we have no tools to fight it.”One type of fungus is Plectosporium, Hamilton said. The other is generally called “fruit rot.” The fungus affects many vine vegetables, he said, including both summer and winter squash.Since one type is in the soil, wet conditions compound the issue, Hamilton said.David Melton at Fitch Farm in Milford said he lost about half his crop, but those he had planted in a sandy, gravelly soil with good drainage “did just fine. The ones I did pick were really nice.”According to Melton, “you try to spread things out. That’s how it goes in farming, you try to bet on the weather and you can’t do that.”Another problem has been the unusually high number of hailstorms this summer, Hamilton said. “Hail can damage the plant, making it easier for the disease to invade,” he said.He added that, while pumpkin crops have been affected by the weather, “there are still a lot of pumpkins, and we need to support the local farmers in this kind of year. The pumpkins might not be perfect (because of hail damage) but they are fine for decorations and jack-o’-lanterns.”– JESSIE SALISBURN/THE TELEGRAPH