Potato acres increase for 2012
Potato acreage is up for 2012, according to the USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service crop production report.
Nationally, potato growers planted 1,002,900 acres, 45,500 more acres this year than in 2011, an increase of 4.7 percent. The Pacific Northwest (PNW) states of Idaho, Oregon and Washington saw a total increase of 31,000 acres, a 6 percent increase from 2011. The PNW increase accounted for 68 percent of the national increase.
Idaho, up 25,000-acres/7.8 percent from 2011, accounted for 59.4 percent of the national increase. Oregon is up 1,000 acres, a 2.5 percent increase, and Washington planted an additional 5,000 acres, a 1.2 percent increase.
Paul Patterson, University of Idaho agricultural economist, cautions that acres planted is only the first part in the supply equation.
"You need acres times yield to get the total production, which gives you your total supply," Patterson said.
Patterson did say that the preliminary indications are pointing to an increased supply. However, there remain a lot of factors that will determine yield totals, weather being the primary factor.
"There's still a long time between now and when the diggers start moving though the fields, and the weather can play havoc on a crop," Patterson said. "Higher temperatures can start to shut down production in those plants, then they (growers) may not get the yields that they initially anticipated."
Patterson pointed to higher demand from the process, dehy and frozen sectors as good news for the increased supply. Unfortunately, demand for fresh-market potatoes appears to be getting weaker.
Patterson's advice to fresh-market growers and sheds is to manage supply judiciously and not rush to market as soon as the potatoes are out of the ground.
"Ultimately, how the market reacts is going to depend on how the people in the fresh market choose to market their crop," he said. "If they're smart about it, and they're a lot smarter than they used to be, I think they'll get through the year. They may not be prices that everybody's happy with, but the thing they need to work with is to avoid an absolute disaster. When everybody tries to see who can get to the market first, then it just becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy and the bottom just falls out of the market."
Updates from around the country indicate healthy crops in all the states. The heat and drought conditions in the Midwest have not severely impacted the crops in Wisconsin or Michigan, yet, and at the e-newsletter deadline the forecast was for cooler temperatures with some rain. Everyone reported an early start to the planting season due to a moderate winter and warm spring. Crops continue to be ahead of schedule, but not as advanced as they once were.
Colorado: Andrew Houser, associate professor at Colorado State University's San Luis Valley Research Center, said that everything is ahead of schedule — probably five or six days ahead of average. "It's been fairly warm until last week, it's been cooling down. Rows are starting to close. Water's a concern for some growers; snowpack was down this year," Houser said.
Idaho: Phil Nolte, University of Idaho Research and Extension seed potato pathologist, said the crop is coming along really good. "Just recently it has started to get hot," Nolte said. "I don't know if that will cause problems. They may be a week or more ahead from what they would be in a normal yield."
Maine: Tim Hobbs, Maine Potato Board director of development and grower relations, said the crop looks good, and fields are starting to come into blossom. "It's on schedule; we had a good planting season. Some areas have received more rain than we'd like to see," Hobbs said.
Michigan: David Douches, Michigan State University professor, said that some parts of the state are drier than other parts, but that rains had just moved through Montcalm County. "We've got this early heat, the heat is ahead of the bulking time. It will be interesting to see what happens to the crop," he said. "I think we're ahead of schedule in terms of how advanced the crop is. We don't have disease pressures at this point. Don't need to worry about early blight or late blight. If the heat does continue, it would lead to lower solids, but it's too early to tell right now."
Oregon: Don Horneck, Oregon State University Extension agronomist, said the Oregon crop looks good with little heat stress. "So far, so good," Horneck said. "We're ahead of last year. Warm winter, even the spring when it rained this year it was warmer than last year, even though it was similar moisture-wise; temperatures were a lot more moderate."
Red River Valley: Chuck Gunnerson, president of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, said that everything looks pretty good despite the heat, but that some areas could use some rain. "The irrigated crop looks very good. We put potatoes in probably three weeks early and they are excellent looking at this time. At this point in time, the potato crop in Minnesota and North Dakota looks very good," Gunnerson said.
Washington: Mark Pavek, Washington State University associate professor/research and Extension horticulturist, said that the crop appears to be one to two weeks ahead of the previous two years, but the past two years started out cold and slow. "Growing conditions based upon our heat units and general growing temperatures during the day are extremely favorable for potato production, and yields at this point in time are on track to be extremely high — with the caveat that we got hit by high heat this weekend (July 8 and 9). High heat can be detrimental to quality and can reduce yields. However, if it cools back down for the remainder of the growing season to more typical temperatures, we may still be back on track for high yields and quality," Pavek said.
Wisconsin: A.J. Bussan, University of Wisconsin associate professor, reports that the crop was holding up despite the heat. "The crop stand is still decent, the vines are in relatively good health. We're starting to see some stress occur, especially in Norkotahs. Crops are about two to three weeks ahead," Bussan said.