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Commercial Fruit and Vegetable Growers

St. Louis Metro East Update: 2024 season is running well ahead of average

People using a tractor and tree planter to plant peach tree samplings in a field

Throughout the St Louis Metro East, the season is running roughly three weeks ahead of schedule, with asparagus in its third week of harvest and plasticulture strawberries in their first week of harvest. Apples are up to 5mm fruit size and thinning of fruitlets is in progress. Prior to “traditional” chemical thinning of apple fruitlets, some growers bloom thinned using the pollen tube growth model. Bloom not only came early, but it was extended due to a few dips in temperatures, so fire blight management continues to be a focus when temperatures (65° to 86°F) and rain/hail are in the forecast until new growth hardens off. The northern counties of the metro east (north of I-70) are not expecting a commercial peach crop this year, but growers to the south still have a crop…but not so much that they did any bloom thinning. Blackberries are looking significantly better this year compared to last year this same time…significantly less winter injury. Grapes are at 4 inches plus of growth and blueberries are leafed out fully. Planting is switching to high gear, with the majority of horseradish planted, as well as other cool season crops like the cole crops. Soil conditions have been good for early fruit tree planting as well. The first planting of sweet corn is in for some growers. Tunnel grown hydroponic tomatoes should be in harvest soon.

Temperatures have been up and down this past month, but overall rather mild with an average high in the low 60s and an average low in the low 40s. In that time, there have been a few dips below freezing that required growers to cover and/or frost irrigate strawberries. There was a minor amount of noted damage to ‘Sweet Charlie’ strawberries where flowers touched frost covers and no frost irrigation was used, but overall the crop looks good. Covers on plasticulture berries are off for the season now, and growers of matted row and plasticulture berries have frost irrigation set up in preparation for the next potential freeze event. Rainfall has been highly variable across the region, but most have received between 2.5” and 3.5” this past month. Calhoun, Jersey and Madison are not in any level of drought according to the US Drought Monitor, as well as the northeast half of St Clair. As one moves southwest into Monroe County, the level of drought increases to moderate…a continued holdover from last year.