Drought Sprouts Smaller, Costlier Pumpkins

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Pumpkins for Halloween jack-o-lanterns and holiday pies may be smaller and cost a bit more this year, University of Tennessee crop specialists said Wednesday.

Dr. Alvin Rutledge of UT’s Agricultural Extension Service said dry weather hurt most of the state’s pumpkin crop.

“You can see evidence of the drought,” Rutledge said. “The size and weight of the pumpkins are down, but there should be enough to meet consumer demand all over the state.”

East Tennessee has a good supply of pumpkins, though many are smaller than usual, Rutledge said. Size and yields are below normal in Middle Tennessee and especially in drought-plagued West Tennessee, he said.

Bledsoe County extension agent Rodney Smith said sales of Tennessee-grown pumpkins normally tally about $4 million, but could be down this year.

Bledsoe County — the state’s top pumpkin producer — could lose 80 percent of 1,300 acres planted, Smith said.

“Ordinarily, growers want a 20 pound pumpkin. This year most are 10-12 pounds,” Smith said. “Normal price is about 8 cents per pound, but now you would have no trouble getting 10-12 cents per pound for good pumpkins.”

Normal yields are 800-1,000 pumpkins per acre, but 200-300 per acre is more common this year, he said.