California fires: Ash again falling on Salinas floor, with harvesting delays possible - FreshFruitPortal.com

California fires: Ash again falling on Salinas floor, with harvesting delays possible

With active wildfires now covering more than 2 million acres of California, produce operations in a key agricultural region are again being affected and could begin to experience delays.

Combined with fires burning in Oregon and Washington, there is a tremendous amount of smoke hanging over California.

The current north by northeast winds are combining the marine layer with the smoke, creating an eerie, smoky, and dark orange sky across the entire Salinas Valley.

In an update on the situation, Markon Cooperative said: "Light ash is again falling to the floor of the Salinas Valley, creating another build-up of ash across vegetable and fruit crops."

"Some harvesting crews need to work with lights for safety reasons, as well as to help the crew members have a better view of the crops," it said.

In addition, the organization noted that harvest delays may occur if conditions force crews to halt production due to health concerns.

This is the second time that ash has fallen on Salinas Valley crops this summer, the first time being in late August. 

Mark Shaw, Markon Cooperative's Vice President of Operations, said at the time that while there would likely be some product loss, for the most part it would be very limited.

"All products can be washed and brought up to consumable and safe levels," he said.

However, growers will need to spend time cleaning the ash of the produce, which will likely increase their costs. The processors will also spend more time changing over water to keep clarity at required levels to clean their shred, salads, and blends 100%.

In addition, he said that a bigger problem facing growers was the mid-August heatwave, which saw several days of scorching temperatures. 

"The jury is still out on how much of the crop has been damaged by the abnormally high temperatures received, which could create a supply shortage sometime between mid-October through mid-November," he said in comments to FreshFruitPortal.com.

That timing would coincide with the end of the Salinas season and the beginning of the winter desert season, he said.

Click here to see the Cal Fire website showing active fires in California: https://www.fire.ca.gov/incidents/.