Growers report planting conditions
According to reports from seven growers around the country, planting conditions in general were "challenging" with most crops behind schedule, but growers are confident that their crops will come in strong, if Mother Nature provides just enough sun and not too much heat.
Rex Calloway, a process grower in eastern Washington, said that he planted his crop in mid-April, a normal planting time for him, but then the weather turned cool.
"We had cold weather, we had some rain - things got off to a slow start. The crop took a while to emerge," Calloway said. "The weather eventually changed, with warmer weather the potatoes really took off and gained the lost time. Nice stand, good row closure and the crop looks really good right now."
Calloway did express concern for all the inputs he's had to invest in this year, along with reports of late blight from the Tri-Cities area.
Down in Oregon, Dan Chin said they were right on schedule with planting, only running into a few wet fields, "but overall everything went pretty well," he said.
Cold weather did affect emergence.
"We were probably a week to 10 days (behind)," Chin said. "We've actually had good catch-up weather in the last two or three weeks. We're still behind but we're catching up."
Randy Hardy, a southern Idaho grower, said that the planting season was cold and wet.
"The first ones I got in it took seven weeks to emergence," Hardy said.
When he started planting, ground temperature was colder than his storage temperature.
"You can go by temperature or you go by date," Hardy said about his planting strategy.
He chose to go by date.
"They've come a long way," Hardy said about his crop. "They've closed rows, but underneath they're just setting. We're a week to 10 days behind."
Moving southeast to Colorado, Harry Strohauer, a grower in the Fort Collins area, said that planting time this spring was ideal, much better than the muddy, wet conditions in 2010.
"The ground was like powder, very mellow, we got everything in in good shape then it got wet and cold, delayed emergence by about a week," Strohauer said.
He's already starting to kill Yukons and will begin harvesting around the first of August.
Down in the San Luis Valley in Center, Colo., Roger Mix said it was a windy and dry spring and that they're still dry and need some rain.
"It was a cold May, it never did warm up. End of May, first part of June it was cold," Mix said. "Everything was at a stand still, even alfalfa. It took some time for soil temperatures to warm up. We're probably a week to 10 days behind."
Mix said that the crops are catching up and the rows are starting to close up.
Moving northeast to Karlstadt, Minn., in the Red River Valley, Justin Dagen said that for fresh growers, "it is a unanimously challenging environment."
"We had numerous, consistent precipitation events," Dagen said. "It rained quite often; the Northern Plains had significant above-average precipitation."
Going into April the soil profile for moisture content was 100 percent. Dagen said that they could have gone four to six weeks without rain.
With all the rain, Dagen said that some growers are reporting 10 percent to 30 percent losses since planting. He estimates that growers are about a week behind schedule but that fresh growers could make up the difference whereas some process and chip growers may not be able to reach their average yields.
Brian Sackett of Sackett Potatoes in Mecosta said spring planting was a struggle with all the rain.
"We were about 10 days to 2 weeks late getting our crops planted from what we normally do. We are normally done by the 25th of May and we got done on the 6th of June," Sackett said.
"Everything's up and everything looks good," Sackett said. "The crop's probably a week behind normal. Depending on what the rest of the growing season is like we may not be too far behind."