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How climate change could cause a pumpkin shortage

That would squash a Thanksgiving tradition.

There’s a good chance the pumpkin in your Thanksgiving pie came from Morton, Illinois. This pumpkin paradise produces most of the nation’s holiday squash. But dark skies may loom ahead.

Pumpkins are fair weather fruit; squash rots in squishy fields. And in 2015, record rainfall put a big dent in canned pumpkin production. It was not the first time America’s top squash crop got soaked. And Illinois State Climatologist Jim Angel says it will not be the last.

Angel: “Probably our biggest concern right now and into the future is that we’ve been trending toward wetter conditions.”

Adapting to the changing climate is not as simple as finding more hospitable fields for the pumpkins – it could require moving the entire industry.

Angel: “With pumpkins, they don’t transport very well. So if you’re going to do this kind of operation you really have to have the pumpkins in the field, and the processer facility right next to it so you can just haul them literally across the road.”

Case in point: More than 100,000 tons of pumpkins are processed in Morton each year.

There are still more good years than bad. But pumpkin shortages could become more common as the climate continues to change.

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