2018 Seed Potato Crop Report: Eastern, Central United States
Growing a successful seed potato crop means navigating two major variables: weather and disease/pest pressure. For the most part, growers were able to clear these hurdles in the 2018 season.
Growers nationwide didn’t experience anything apart from the ordinary cycles of warm/cool and wet/dry but there were a few exceptions. Andrew Houser, manager of the Colorado Potato Certification Service, said weather conditions in the San Luis Valley were “very unique.”
“In typical years, winter temperatures can drop to 20 or 30 below zero. This past winter, temperatures rarely dropped below zero. This was in large part due to lack of snowpack in the surrounding mountain ranges. The warm temperatures continued through May and June, resulting in a fast growing potato crop,” Houser said.
Idaho growers reported a tough planting season due to heavy rains, while in Michigan excess moisture bogged down the harvest.
In general, growers were able to dodge severe problems with the usual roster of threats, including PVY, dickeye, blackleg, Colorado potato beetle and others.
2018 Seed Potato Crop Report: Eastern, Central U.S.
RELATED: Seed Report for Western U.S.
The 2018 growing season was very similar to what growers experienced in 2017 with a cool spring and prolonged dry spells for the rest of the growing season up in Aroostook County. Southern and central Maine experienced dry periods also. Luckily, certain growing areas received rain later in the season to help sustain the crop.
Overall, the 2018 crop appears to be very healthy despite dryness in some areas. As of Sept. 14, 2018, the certification program had 9,333 acres in field certified from 109 farms. The top five varieties entered for 2018 were:
- Atlantic, 843 acres
- Lamoka, 685 acres
- Snowden, 627 acres
- Russet Burbank (MT strain), 594 acres
- Russet Burbank (ID strain), 508 acres
Inspectors are now performing PCN sampling and are in preparation for laboratory PVY postharvest testing. This year marks three years of transition in postharvest laboratory testing for the department. For 2018 the Florida grow-out has been fully phased out and all samples will be ELISA postharvest tested at the certification laboratory in Presque Isle.
— Ron Dyer, director of the Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources for the state of Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry (DACF) and Walter Whitcomb, commissioner of the Maine DACF.
The 2018 seed potato crop began the season with a small drop in acreage entered for certification. This small decrease followed several years of increases and is due to, for the most part, the way rotations worked out.
The planting season was uneventful and timely. Plant growth seemed to be accelerated with field inspections beginning a week ahead of normal. We were pleased with the results of our inspections, as there were no rejections or class reductions necessary for virus. It was also very encouraging to note we saw no late blight symptoms and very few blackleg symptoms during the inspection process. We had timely rains early in the growing season but experienced dry weather mid-summer. The lack of rain coupled with higher-than-normal temperatures created a challenge for growers in keeping up with irrigation.
The higher temperatures during the day as well as at night had growers concerned about yields. But as we got into harvest, they were pleasantly surprised by above-average yields.
We saw some delays in harvest early because of high temperatures. But for the most part, September was a good harvest month. The weather in October took a turn for the worse. Heavy rain caused delay after delay through most of the month. As the middle of the month passed, low morning temperatures further delayed things.
As I write this report near the end of October, there are still a few potatoes in the ground that should be in storage by the end of the week as weather conditions improve.
In Michigan, we do harvest inspections as part of the certification process. While this inspection is a challenge due to the logistics of actually looking at each lot as it is harvested, it gives us a good idea of what the quality of the crop is as it goes into storage. Although there will be some field frost issues in a small percentage of our seed crop here in Michigan, I am very pleased with the overall quality of this year’s crop.
— Jeff Axford, executive director, Michigan Seed Potato Association
For the 2018 crop year, the Minnesota Department of Agriculture received 359 applications from 26 certified seed potato growing operations to certify 5,478.19 acres of seed potatoes. These numbers represent three fewer from the previous year and a reduction of more than 16 percent in total acreage from 2017.
Planting began on May 1 and continued until mid to late June due to a colder almost nonexistent spring (still melting snow in April). May was warm to hot and dry for the majority of the growers. June had some timely rains and then the weather turned dry for the better part of the summer.
The exception to this was southern Minnesota, where frequent and heavy rains took a toll on a majority of the seed fields. The varied environments around the state during the growing season resulted in a wide range of field conditions from fairly dry to consistent standing water. Despite this, many of the fields looked good to very good through much of the summer.
For the areas with dry conditions and late planting dates, yield and quality may have been impacted. Most seed growers were holding off on harvest until much needed rains came to soften up the soil in hopes that it would minimize bruising of the crop. Harvest is proceeding even though the state has seen an active weather pattern with plenty of rain and now, the first snowfall of the season in the northern portion of the state. Producers are seeking dry weather to complete the harvest and get the crop out of the field and into the bin.
Russet Burbank was again the most common processing variety planted in Minnesota at 720 acres followed closely by Umatilla Russet at 631 acres. Dark Red Norland (1,193 acres) dominated the fresh red acreage followed by Red Norland (286 acres), Red Pontiac, Dakota Rose, Red LaSoda-New York and Chieftain, in that order. Yukon Gold continues to be the most prevalent white/yellow fleshed fresh market variety at 127 acres.
Unlike in 2017, no late blight had been reported in Minnesota.
With relatively low aphid numbers this year as compared to past years, we will soon find out how the Minnesota crop fares in the postharvest winter test (PHWT). 76 percent of the acres entered for certification passed the summer test and are eligible for the PHWT.
The PHWT samples are starting to arrive, as harvest is well under way. They will be organized and gassed (to break dormancy) in East Grand Forks, Minnesota, then shipped to Seattle the first week of November to be placed on a cargo ship bound for Honolulu, where they are planted on the north shore of Oahu. Planting was scheduled for the last week of November. Field readings/testing are scheduled for the first three weeks of January 2019. Results from these tests will be available in early February 2019.
— Jeff Miller, certified seed potato specialist
In 2018, seed potato acres were down from 2017 with 612 total acres inspected. We had average to a little below average precipitation in May and June so there were no weather delays to our planting. Growers are reporting average yields.
Harvest has been a challenge as it has been wet all fall. While most of our seed acreage has been harvested, many commercial acres are still in the field. Rain and snow is in our forecast for the next 10 days so harvest will be further delayed.
Waneta represents the largest acreage entered for certification in New York with Lamoka NY 152, and Snowden the next highest acreages.
We are currently preparing samples for our winter grow out in Waialua, Hawaii, in November.
More detailed information about varieties and acres entered for certification can be found in our 2018 Potato Crop Directory, available by calling New York Seed Improvement Project at 607-255-9869 or e-mailing [email protected].
— Phil Atkins, manager, New York Seed Improvement Project
“Quality is good, but yield is a little low” seems to be the comment by dryland seed potato growers digging their 2018 potato crop in the Red River Valley. The volume of seed potatoes going into storage is expected to be down considerably from last year’s near record production.
While early growing season rains were timely, moisture was lacking during later crucial tuber production stages. Growers were thankful for preharvest showers to soften soil for digging, enhancing a quality product going into storage. Yields of seed potatoes under irrigation across North Dakota are average.
14,008 acres were eligible and entered for certification for 2018, just 68 acres more than 2017. Spring planting conditions were colder than normal, somewhat delaying the planting schedule. Once temperatures and soils warmed, planting went smoothly.
The top five varieties were Norland strains, 3,117 acres; Umatilla Russet, 1,851 acres; Dakota Pearl, 1,078 acres; Bannock Russet, 795 acres; and Ranger Russet, 888 acres. The 2018 seed directory can be accessed at www.nd.gov/seed/.
Leaf samples were taken from required seed lots for serological potato virus testing, including PVY and PVX. Results matched field inspection notes, which were zero or very low mosaic levels observed. No acreage was rejected due to mosaic. Inspectors collected random symptomatic blackleg stems and subjected them to lab testing against Dickeya dianthicola. To date, no positives have been confirmed. Several growers will continue Dickeya dianthicola testing on their harvested tubers.
Seed growers were proactive with protective fungicides, reducing potential for Phytophthora infestans. Growers monitored the Blight Alert programs for the region. No late blight was reported. Mosaic vectoring aphid counts were average through the season. Again, growers were strongly encouraged to use protective oils and insecticides and vine kill as early as possible.
Nearly all early field generation seed lots in North Dakota are planted in very isolated areas in the western part of the state. These seed lots inspected free from viruses, and were not threatened by aphid populations, mosaic or late blight inoculum. These seed lots provide the basis for future North Dakota seed production. In addition, North Dakota State Seed Department tissue culture and greenhouse staff harvested a good minituber crop in June and October. These minitubers will supply North Dakota seed growers with the first field year crop of 2019, creating a clean seed source for crops in future years.
The cycle of seed potato certification continues as North Dakota certified seed growers randomly select tubers from 2018 crop seed lots requiring a postharvest test planted in Homestead, Florida. Results from this stage of testing will determine seed lots eligible for certification for the future 2019 crop.
— Kent Sather, director of potato programs, North Dakota State Seed Department
Wisconsin had its weather challenges for 2018. Much of the potato ground in Wisconsin received a major snow dump while seed shipping was in full swing and commercial planting season was underway. The abnormally cool month of April and nearly 20 inches of snow delayed frost coming out of the northern soils, truck availability for seed shipping and seed cutting operations for many seed growers.
Despite this, May was one of the mildest in recent years with relatively low precipitation and warm temperatures. Late May had very high temperatures and early June brought rain delaying some planting and hilling operations into early and mid-June.
Seed acreage planted was up again in 2018, with slightly over 9,300 acres. The increase includes cultivars used for fresh market russets, specialty potatoes and potato chips. Acreage in the certified seed program has gradually increased since 2013, up 1,000 acres over that time period.
The sun and warmth pushed along all crops and the seed potato crop emerged quickly with very few disease concerns; blackleg was difficult to find while mosaic levels were very low. Mid-summer, growers noticed that tuber set was quite variable with notable exceptions on either side of the norms. The majority of the vegetative portion of the growing season was drier than in recent years. Northern Wisconsin growers were running irrigation pivots far more often than in recent memory. The dearth of moisture came to an end during mid- to late-bulking and vine-killing stages of the crop. Dryland corners are showing a marked difference in yield and tuber size.
With the dry and heat, growing degree days pushed Colorado potato beetle and cutworms. Fortunately, we have chemistries to handle pressure.
No late blight was found in the northern Wisconsin seed areas, and relatively low amounts of white mold were present, and only in susceptible varieties. Aerial blackleg was also quite low in 2018. There were no mosaic rejections (PVY >1 percent) for the season. At the end of the season only a handful of lots were down-classed to certified (PVY 0.25 percent-1 percent).
Harvest began with great digging weather, followed by half-day harvests with above average high temperatures, switching dramatically to consistent mist and rain, cool and cloudy conditions pushing harvest into early October. The bulk of harvest has had nice cool night temperatures for running air systems. Quality has been generally very high throughout the harvest period. Depending on the cultivar, some yields have been reportedly lower than average and in some cases cases much higher.
Ron and Ken Mach, of Mach’s Sunny Acres, retired in spring of 2018. The brothers grew Red LaSoda, Superiors, Atlantics and Accumulators. Ron was active with potato industry organizations, and in 2011 was named the National Potato Council Seed Potato Grower of the Year. We congratulate them and are glad to see their farm and facilities continue in seed potato production.
As we look forward to the postharvest testing in Hawaii, Wisconsin will continue to PVY ELISA test all latent varieties and all seed lots re-entering certification will be ELISA tested. All Wisconsin seed lots receiving a Wisconsin certified seed tag must be postharvest tested, and the upper tolerance for PVY is 5 percent.
— Alex Crockford, program director, Wisconsin Seed Potato Certification Program