Strawberry Crops Delayed By Cold, Wet Weather

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BELLEVILLE, IL. (KTVI) - Less than a year after a drought baked local farmland, a wet spring is putting a damper on the Eckert’s Strawberry festival in Belleville.

The rite of spring was supposed to kick off in just a few days.

“We will have some activities,” said Jill Tantillo, vice president of Eckert’s Orchards.  “But unfortunately, we won’t have pick-your-own strawberries available.”

For now, shoppers have to settle for out-of-state berries.  Local fields are having trouble in this cool and soggy weather.

“They are getting plenty of water,” Tantillo explained.  “But as we know, they would just like to get a little sun now and a little bit warmer temperatures."

The bees are standing by to help pollinate, even through the berries are still green.  But post-harvest manager Jerry Hearn is still optimistic.

“They’ll move tremendously fast once they get that heat and that sunshine that’s why we’re hoping for next weekend,” Hearn explained.  “But without that sun, without that heat, they will just sit there and stay green.”

Eckert’s growers are not alone.

“There are a couple of other farmers we talked to in southern Illinois and some in eastern Illinois,” Hearn said.  “They are experiencing the same problems.”

The possibility of disease is another concern coming down with all the rain.  Growers are battling that with go old fashioned vigilance.

“It’s a challenge, but nothing we can’t manage,” Hearn explained.  “We’re constantly scouting every morning, every afternoon, sometimes even in the evening.”

He remembered how the same field survived a hail storm last year.

“Strawberries are tough.  They are a tough plant.  So, I’m not worried about it.  I’m just getting impatient.  I wish they were here,” he laughed.  “I want to eat a strawberry.”

Eckert’s growers recommend customers check the Harvest Hotline of the day of their visit.  That number is (618) 233-0513 x6.  You can also visit http://www.eckerts.com/hotline.htm.

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