"Southeast Missouri didn't have an above average year, but even the average year is not a good year," said David Diebold, who owns Diebold Orchards in Benton. "Southeast Missouri is not what you'd call commercial pumpkin country." The reason is Southeast Missouri isn't typically considered as having the best conditions for growing pumpkins, noted Diebold, adding pumpkins are a challenging crop.
"Pumpkins are more of a northern, cooler climate crop," Diebold explained. "They don't like warm weather, and it's a bigger struggle to grow them."
Even so, local pumpkin growers had a fair crop, Diebold said.
Donnie Beggs, owner of Beggs Pumpkin Patch near Sikeston, said he's had some good pumpkins this year.
"Because of the extra dry weather, the pumpkins aren't as heavy as normal so you can actually get a bigger pumpkin for less of a price," Beggs said.
Janet Johns, owner of Cate's Orchard near Dudley, said "abundant" isn't exactly the word she and her husband, Kevin Johns, would use to describe their crop this year. "What we picked first was what we had, and that was it. We usually pick two or three times a season," Johns said, adding she's not sure why it happened like that.
Frank Turnbo of Turnbo's Produce near Bertrand said the couple acres he grows of pumpkins weren't bad compared to the previous year.
Yields varied around Southeast Missouri, noted Tim Baker, a horticulture specialist with the Dunklin County University of Missouri Extension office.
"I saw some that had total crop loss, and others had problem with diseases," said Baker, who covers most of Southeast Missouri. "With our heat and humidity, we get a lot of disease pressure. I saw a lot of problems with downy mildew, powdery mildew and virus diseases for some of the growers."
Despite the occurrence of leaf diseases from high moisture, most Missouri pumpkin producers had above-average crops this year, noted Lewis Jett, state vegetable crops specialist for the University of Missouri Extension.
"There were some problems during a cloudy and wet period in August, but the fruit set was pretty good," Jett said in a statement. "There ought to be plenty of pumpkins for Halloween. The quality looks real good."
Improved seed selection can be attributed to the abundance of pumpkins in 2004, Jett noted, adding a lot of growers are planting hybrid varieties with high disease tolerance.
"Growers have found out that good quality seed doesn't cost, it pays. It's a small fraction of what you'd pay for pesticides to keep your crop alive. If you want the pumpkins-per-acre, you have to have the hybrids," Jett said.
Another indication of a good crop is low prices, Jett pointed out.
"The prices seem to be pretty darn low. A good yield year is not always a good price year."
Grown in every county in Missouri, for many farmers pumpkins are a low-input crops, Jett said. One operation near St. Louis " had so many pumpkins they didn't think they could get them picked," Jett said. "I don't think very many people had any major problems. Everybody in the state will have a pumpkin this year."
Area residents who haven't gotten any pumpkins yet shouldn't worry. All of the local pumpkin producers -- Beggs, Diebold, Johns and Turbo -- said they still have plenty of pumpkins available for the public.
"We've had better, and we've had worse," Diebold said about this year's crop. "Pumpkins are just unpredictable, and we just hope for the best."