Extreme heat in Pacific Northwest ruined crops of sweet onions, devastating small farmers

7th August, 2021.      //   Climate Change  // 

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The severe heatwave that struck the Pacific Northwest in June wreaked havoc on numerous sweet onion farms in Washington, with some losing practically all of their harvests.

Climate change, according to scientists, is to blame for the excessive heat. Although onions flourish in hot weather, Fernando Enriquez Sr. of Enriquez Farms in Walla Walla noticed that the tops of his onions were blistered and burnt when the temperature reached 120 degrees. The thousands of onions in the field that hadn’t been picked, as well as most of the seeds that would have been used to sow next year’s crop, were destroyed by the next day. He told The Seattle Times, “There was nothing we could save.”

Fernando Enriquez Jr., his son, estimated that the family lost 98 percent of their harvest. They had reduced their business due to the pandemic, cultivating just 40 acres of onions in 2021 compared to 140 acres in 2020. He told the New York Times that the heat wave was “unprecedented.” “I was born and raised here in the valley, my parents have been in this valley for over 50 years, and it’s just never that hot at the beginning of June.”

According to Sarah McClure, owner of Walla Walla Organics, several of her onions were burnt and their development was hindered due to the extreme heat. It’s “hard” on onions when it’s “114 degrees for days and days,” she added. Farmers are worried about the future, with Enriquez Jr. estimating that if his farm does not receive government assistance, his family would only be able to cultivate two or three acres of onions in 2022.