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Wet Weather Causes Shortage of Pumpkins (and Pie)

Intense summer rains cut pumpkin yields in half

(Rick Gayle Studio/Corbis)
smithsonian.com

Rainy summer months have spelled trouble for this year's pumpkins (and pumpkin pie). 

This year the U.S. weather spanned the gamut of extreme, from droughts in California to the deluge of the Midwest. Of particular concern for pumpkin-lovers however, was the extreme rainfall in Illinois, where majority of the pumpkins are grown for holiday pies.

90 percent of the pumpkins in the U.S. are grown within a 90-mile radius of Peoria, Illinois, Natasha Geiling reports for Think Progress. And the popular Illinois-based company Libby's Pumpkin, supplies about 80 percent of the world’s canned pumpkin. But yields in the region were sliced in half thanks to the more than two feet of rain pouring down on crops from May through July. 

That’s a critical time period for growing pumpkins, which leaves our prospect for pie looking bleak.

"If you want to have a Libby’s pumpkin [pie] for Thanksgiving or Christmas, get your pumpkin now," Paul Bakus, president of corporate affairs at Nestlé tells Niina Heikkinen for  Scientific AmericanThe company anticipates having enough pumpkin for customers looking to make their traditional Thanksgiving pumpkin pies, but the supply won’t extend beyond November. 

It’s difficult to link specific weather events to climate change, but Illinois’ rainfall this year was extreme, with 9.42 inches of rain in June alone, reports Heikkinen. “Out of 121 years of data, that is easily an all-time record,” Brad Rippey, a Department of Agriculture meteorologist with the Office of the Chief Economist tells Heikkinen.

In the past decade, the state has swung from drought to drowning and back. “We’re fairly certain that’s tied to climate change," says the state climatologist for the Illinois State Water Survey, Jim Angel.

For this year at least the pumpkin-lovers may have to move fast to get supplies for this classic fall treat. But for holiday pies, there are alternatives. Sweet potato pie, anyone?

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