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Vine kill, harvest can be simpler following a few easy tips

The harvest season is rapidly approching — the evidence of a season’s worth of hard work and it can make or break a farm. Tensions will be high and the opportunity for mistakes will be great. Here are a few easy steps that can help at the end of the season.

1. Read the Label – Chemical vine kill treatments have varying application rates, uses and safety requirements. Endothall, for example, can be tank-mixed with other desiccants and can be applied through ground or aerial equipment 10 to 14 days before harvest. Diquat shouldn’t be applied to drought-stressed potatoes and should be applied seven days before harvest, with five days between multiple applications via ground or air. Paraquat should be applied when the leaves turn yellow and by ground equipment only, with five days between treatments. That chemical is for fresh-market potatoes only and shouldn’t be used on potatoes to be stored or used for seed, and the field shouldn’t be used as pasture following. Sulfuric acid, a restricted-use herbicide, should be applied at least five days before harvest and requires protective gear and water available for drenching.

2. Watch the Weather – Desiccant effectiveness depends on temperature and environmental conditions, so watch the forecast and apply the chemicals appropriately. Some desiccants are rainfast but others can run off, so check the label if rain is in the forecast.

3. Equipment Maintenance – Check your irrigation equipment before mixing in herbicides or fertilizers if you plan on using chemigation. Repair any leaks and make sure end guns are shut off and make sure there are no neighborhoods nearby that the chemicals could drift into.

4. Watch Your Step – There’s nothing worse than ruining a good pair of work boots by stepping too close to a field that’s just been sprayed with sulfuric acid.

5. Digging Depth – At the start of harvest, check the digging depth of your harvester. Watch the rows for skinned or damaged potatoes and adjust the depth as necessary.

6. Set a Schedule – Have a schedule for family members and employees during the harvest. In the fields, make sure you have enough harvester operators and truck drivers scheduled so there’s no downtime waiting on a rig. Many schools no longer understand a farmer’s schedule, so work out in advance if your student is going to take days off school to help with the harvest. Otherwise, your student might have to figure homework and more rest into his or her work schedule.

7. Be Prepared – Have backup equipment on hand, or at least maintenance and repair equipment to fix a harvester in the field. Make sure you have extra lights for the harvester so you can work early and late. Have meals prepared and brought out to the fields for less downtime. Be prepared for long hours in the harvester – have your MP3 player loaded up with music and a copy of Spudman handy.

8. Practice GAPs – Growers whose potatoes go into federal programs will be required to follow Good Agricultural Practices. Many retailers are requiring GAP programs as well, so start working on a plan and putting it in place this season. Working on GAPs now will show you where your problem areas are so you can correct them before your audit.

Originally posted Friday, May. 30, 2008

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