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Growers cut cantaloupe acreage to deal with water issues

Cantaloupe growers in Rocky Ford, CO, have decreased planted acreage dramatically to address water shortages.

“Acreage is down 60 to 70 percent this season,” said Chairman Michael Hirakata, who is also general manager of Hirakata Farms.

The association has a total of 15 members this year. In addition to cantaloupes, some growers have also planted watermelons and honeydews.

Hirakata said water supplies were not as big of an issue at the beginning of the season as planting ramped up.

“But farmers are planting fewer acres to ensure they can finish the crop with enough water,” he told The Produce News.

Despite the situation, Hirakata said 30 percent more cantaloupes have been planted this season. The harvest was expected to start around July 22 and go until it freezes, he said.

Interestingly, Hirakata said cantaloupes take less water to produce than some other fresh commodities.

To illustrate, he said it takes three to four times more water to produce onions, attributing the sharp increase to the fact that plantings are denser per acre.