California State Potato Seed Report 2023
The post-COVID 19 pandemic seed potato production landscape in California has been exciting. The state has four major commercial potato production regions. The Klamath/ Tulelake Basin in Siskiyou and Modoc counties is mostly for fresh, processing and seed potatoes; Kern and Los Angeles counties are mostly for fresh, chipping and seed potatoes; the Delta Basin in San Joaquin County is mostly for seed potatoes and the Desert and Valleys of Imperial, Riverside and San Diego counties are for fresh potatoes.
Our California potato seed certification program is comparatively small compared to other programs in the U.S. In 2023, about 60% of the certified seed potatoes were produced in the Arvin area. About 22% of the seed was produced in the Coachella Valley of the Riverside and San Bernardino counties and about 18% was produced on the McDonald Island and the Terminus area of the Delta region of the San Joaquin Valley near Stockton. The seed potatoes produced annually in the Tulelake area close to the northern border with Oregon were again inspected and certified by the Oregon Seed Certification Service under mutual agreement between our agencies.
Field planting started on Dec. 18, 2022 in about 64° F maximum temperatures in the Central Valley and ended on March 18. It started on May 15 in about 80° F maximum temperatures in the San Joaquin Valley and ended on July 17. The Central Valley crop is sometimes hit by frost but it was largely spared this year. There were no significant rainfall events during the production season and so fields were fully irrigated as usual.
The Mediterranean weather conditions (no rainfall and low humidity during the summer) that prevailed across the state were not conducive for disease development, and so high-quality crops were produced. Our field inspections started on March 27 in the Central Valley and on June 16 in the San Joaquin Valley. The last field inspections were completed in San Joaquin Valley on Sept. 21.
California’s total production of commercial potatoes was in the region of 30,000 to 40,000 acres in 2023. But the average annual production of certified seed potatoes in the state was about 790 acres for 2017-2021 crop years. We had less than average (682) acres in 2022 but the acres rebounded by 72% in 2023 to 1,174 acres. This was a result of increased acres in Central Valley (Kern County) and production in a new seed potato area of Coachella Valley (Riverside and San Bernardino counties). On all these acres, we had a total of 22 varieties in the Certification Program. Apart from proprietary varieties, the six varieties with the most acres were Ciklamen, Sifra, Austrian Crescent, Amarosa, Cristina, and Purple Majesty, in that order.
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— Alexander B. Mkandawire, Potato Seed Certification manager, California Crop Improvement Association