Rains Delay Tomatoes to Market (240)

KNOXVILLE, Tenn.– Heavy spring rains have washed away some of East Tennessee tomato growers profits, a University of Tennessee plant specialist said Monday.

Dr. Alvin Rutledge of the UT Extension Service said heavier than usual rainfall over the area delayed harvest of early tomatoes and postponed planting of later varieties.

 Growers will have a tomato crop, but may not earn as much from it, Rutledge said.

“It may be getting near panic time for some growers because the later they get the plants in the ground, the less chance they have of getting a good price,” Rutledge said.

 Growers in the counties of Cocke, Grainger, Greene, Hamblen, Hawkins, Jefferson, Unicoi and Washington this year were expected to plant about 3,700 acres of tomatoes with a gross value of approximately $8,000 per acre, Rutledge said.

 Some growers are still holding plants in greenhouses because fields have been too wet for planting.

 “The plants are getting tall and that might mean total plant yield will be lower than if they had them in the ground at an earlier stage,” Rutledge said.

 “Some of the smaller growers may be producing primarily for the local market. But the big growers are shipping tomatoes up and down the eastern seaboard and even into the western states.”

 Rutledge said large growers may have 200 to 300 acres in tomatoes.

 Contact: Dr. Alvin Rutledge (423-974-7208)