This is the year that potato farmers must get it right, says Merrill Hanny, a 56-year-old third generation fresh market potato farmer as he sits in his home office at Merrill Hanny Farms east of Shelley, Idaho. Here in the rolling Snake River Valley, potatoes are such a core of the communitys identity that the local school and mascot are known as the Shelley Russets.
Hanny foretells his spring planting guidelines based on recommendations from the United Potato Growers of Idaho. Its crucial for us to balance fresh inventories with market demands.
Due to a carryover from record yields of the 2009 spud crop, coupled with a declining consumer demand, Merrill plans to follow United of Idaho's guidelines to plant 9 percent fewer acres of Russet Burbanks in late April than he did in 2009.
Merrill says a catch phrase that sums up the potato industry in the
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Rhizoctonia solani, more commonly known as black scurf, is a common fungus that attacks potatoes in the early season of their development. The pathogen is present in all potato growing areas.
The fungus creates black splotches, spore bodies, on the tuber skin.
The splotches, called sclerotia, are more of a cosmetic problem that can be washed off during a tubers early stage of development.
The fungus does not require a host potato to survive. It can persist in the soil for years. Ideal conditions for rhizoctonia are cool temperatures and moist soil.
Bingham County Extension educator Bill Bohl, out of Blackfoot, Idaho, recommended a minimum soil temperature of 45 F for planting.
Ideally, 50 F is even a better soil temperature, Bohl said, but you know good and well a farmer has to make the best use out of the equipment. If he has one planter and lots of acres
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As I write this column in early February, I look out my window and see that the slight snowstorm from two days ago has melted away. That's the way this entire winter has been here in Idaho and throughout the Pacific Northwest.
A little snow here and there, a few days of bitter arctic cold air dropping down, uninvited, to stay for too long, and then just cold and overcast.
It's been an El Nino winter and the lack of accumulating snowpack has growers a little anxious throughout the northwest.
A grower from the Klamath Basin I spoke with expressed alarm at the lack of snowpack in his area. They need some big storms to come through during the next two months.
Two days ago was Groundhog Day and the news from Punxsutawney, Pa., was that Phil saw his shadow, meaning six more weeks of winter.
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