November/December 2019
Seed Potatoes Report 2019: Eastern & Central United States

Wet early and wet late was a common theme for potato growers in the U.S. this year, certified seed growers included.

In Idaho, spring rain hampered planting efforts and then late frosts hindered early growth. A hot, dry summer helped the crop catch up some, but then an early hard freeze on Oct. 10 had farmers scrambling to get as much of their crop out of the ground as possible.

Washington farmers had similar delays in planting due to rain, but then enjoyed “ideal” conditions throughout the summer, said Benita Matheson of the agriculture department’s plant protection division.

Perhaps nowhere was it more challenging than the Red River Valley, where farmers experienced flooding in the spring and again during harvest. In addition, the weather pattern that brought the early freeze to Idaho moved through the Red River Valley a few days later and brought snow and freezing temperatures with it.

Here are certified seed reports from around the Eastern and Central U.S. (The report for the Western U.S. can be found here.)

MAINE

The 2019 growing season was very similar to what growers experienced in 2017 and 2018, with a cool spring and prolonged dry spells for the rest of the growing season in Aroostook County. Southern and Central Maine experienced dry periods similarly. Luckily, certain growing areas received rain events later in the season to help sustain the crop.

Overall, the crop appears to be very healthy despite average to low rainfall in some areas. As of Sept. 30, the certification program has 9,806 acres field certified from 110 farms.

The top five varieties entered were:

  1. Atlantic 914 acres
  2. Russet Burbank (MT strain) 785 acres
  3. Caribou Russet (PVP) 710 acres
  4. Lamoka (PVP) 679 acres
  5. Snowden 629 acres

Inspectors are now performing PCN sampling and are in preparation for laboratory PVY post-harvest testing. This year marks two years of full post-harvest laboratory testing for the Department. All samples will be ELISA post-harvest tested at the certification laboratory in Presque Isle.

Nancy McBrady is the Director of the Bureau of Agriculture, Food and Rural Resources for the State of Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. Amanda Beal is the Commissioner of the State of Maine Department of Agriculture Conservation and Forestry.

— Report by Eric Hitchcock, seed certification program manager, Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry

RELATED: Seed potatoes report for the Western United States

MICHIGAN

The 2019 seed potato crop in Michigan began the season with a more than 3% increase in acreage entered for certification. The increased acres came mostly from more production of the Manistee and Lamoka varieties.

The planting season was timely and uneventful for some areas, but for others it was delayed by rainy weather. Cold temperatures after planting delayed emergence. Overall, we were about a week behind as the growing season began. The crop did a pretty good job in making up for the lost time, but harvest still started a little late. We were pleased with the results of our inspections, as there were no rejections or class reductions necessary for virus. We saw no late blight symptoms and very few blackleg symptoms during inspection.

There were some delays in harvest because of high temperatures, and then heavy rain caused delays through the last half of harvest. Luckily, temperatures stayed mild, so we did not have any frost damage. There was a small amount of water damage in some low areas.

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 were some weather challenges through the season, I am very pleased with the overall quality of this season’s crop.

We continue be on high alert for dickeya by testing symptomatic plants and facilitating laboratory screening of seed lots. This fall nearly half of all seed lots were sampled and will be sent to North Dakota for B.R.R. and dickeya screening.

At the time of this report, we were collecting and preparing to ship our post-harvest test samples to Oahu. Planting is scheduled for Dec. 1, with reading and testing to begin Jan. 3. We continue to adjust our testing and inspection procedures to accommodate the ever-changing virus expression and symptomology. This year over half our seed lots will be serologically tested for PVY.

This past shipping season, we inspected 500,000 cwt for grade at time of shipment. That is the most on record.

— Report by Jeff Axford, executive director, Michigan Seed Potato Association

MINNESOTA

The 31 seed potato growers in Minnesota certified 6,134 acres for crop year 2019, a slight increase from the 5,932 acres in crop year 2018. Russet Burbank was the variety with the most acres planted.

Growers experienced a cool, late spring, with the northern tier of the state experiencing delays in planting due to snow through April. Most growers were in the field and planting in May, with all completed by mid-June. As the growing season progressed, the temperatures warmed rain fell consistently, and growers were excited about potential yields. The Minnesota Department of Agriculture (MDA) inspectors were busy, with three inspections conducted on all certified seed potato lots. Ultimately 600 acres were rejected due to excessive mosaic, varietal mix or not meeting eligibility requirements.

Harvest was difficult, with some regions receiving up to 14 inches of rain from Labor Day to the end of October. The brunt of the heavy rainfall was in the Red River Valley and north. Fifty-two certified seed lots, representing over 700 acres, were totally lost due to the excess moisture. In addition, not all remaining acreage was able to be harvested. This will have an impact on seed potato production in the area for the foreseeable future. Governor Tim Walz and Agriculture Commissioner Thom Peterson held a roundtable discussion with growers and industry officials at the Minnesota Department of Agriculture office in East Grand Forks to discuss the difficulties the growers experienced with the harvest, and provide some support moving forward. Overall, the quality of the potato seed that was able to be harvested is good to excellent.

The MDA Potato Inspection Unit uses a generation system and remains vigilant in detecting potato virus and other disease. With this in mind, the program signed the APHIS MOU for Necrotic Virus Management Plan in July. Following every harvest growers submit samples for the Postharvest Winter Test in Oahu, Hawaii. In the fall, 223 samples were submitted for this program. The samples will be planted, and each lot observed visually for stand, vigor and potato virus. All positive potato virus visual observations are confirmed with a laboratory test conducted at the University of Hawaii. Once complete, the results are communicated to the growers and industry. For copies of the Minnesota certified seed potato directory, please visit the Minnesota Department of Agriculture website, or call 218-773-4956 to be added to the mailing list.

— Report by Eric Byre, Plant Protection Program Supervisor

NEBRASKA & WYOMING

The growing conditions in Nebraska and Wyoming were fair. The spring was wet, and the summer was mild. The annual hailstorms did not come until late in the growing season and caused minimal damage.  All seed was harvested before the fall frosts in October.

A total of 6,527.93 acres of seed potatoes were planted in Nebraska in 2019. The top varieties (and acres) grown in Nebraska in are:

  1. Frito-Lay varieties 3,226 acres
  2. Russet Norkotah strains 880 acres
  3. Umatilla Russet 366 acres
  4. Russet Burbank 341 acres
  5. Lamoka 322 acres
  6. Atlantic 142 acres
  7. Reveille Russet 141 acres

Postharvest tests will be conducted in Wailua, Hawaii. The number of lots entered for certification is slightly higher than in 2018. The Potato Certification Association of Nebraska is now accredited for PCR testing and will be conducting tests this season.

— Report by Adam Winchester, manager, Potato Certification Association of Nebraska

NEW YORK

In 2019, seed potato acres were down from 2018 with 598 total acres inspected. We had a wet spring season, which led to delayed planting in many areas of the state. It was a good harvest season, as all seed growers finished by Oct. 24. There are some commercial acres still in the field but we have a favorable weather forecast for the near future.

Growers are reporting above to slightly below average yields. Tuber quality has been very good, regardless of yield.

Lady Liberty (NY152) represents the largest acreage entered for certification in New York, followed by Lamoka, Waneta and Snowden.

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 2019 Potato Crop Directory available by calling 607-255-9869 or by emailing [email protected].

— Report by Phil Atkins, manager, New York Seed Improvement Project

NORTH DAKOTA

Unprecedented late September and early October rainfall, along with a historic blizzard Oct. 11 has halted North Dakota potato harvest in its tracks. (As of Oct. 16,) an estimated 30% of the crop remained in the field. Snowmelt and field dry down in time to harvest even some of the remaining crop becomes more unlikely with each passing day. Certified seed growers and commercial growers alike are affected.

Spring planting was slightly delayed due to lingering cold weather. Once started, planting was interrupted by rain events. This resulted in plant development 7-10 days behind average all summer. Tuber development never caught up. Seed harvested prior to weather events proved good quality, but small size and well below average yields.

A total of 13,037 acres were eligible and entered for certification for 2019, which was 972 acres less than 2018. The top five varieties were:

  1. Norland strains 2,355 acres
  2. Umatilla Russet 1,798 acres
  3. Ranger Russet 1,163 acres
  4. Bannock Russet 1,136 acres
  5. Dakota Pearl 1,109 acres

The seed directory can be found 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. Inspectors collected random symptomatic blackleg stems and subjected them to lab testing against dickeya. To date, no positives have been confirmed. Several growers will continue testing on their harvested tubers.

Seed growers were proactive with protective fungicides, reducing potential for phytophthora. Growers monitored the Blight Alert programs for the region. No late blight was reported. Mosaic vectoring aphid counts were tracking slightly above the previous year. Again, growers were strongly encouraged to use protective oils and insecticides through the growing season and vine kill as early as possible.

North Dakota State Seed Department tissue culture and greenhouse staff harvested a record minituber crop in June and October. These minitubers will supply North Dakota seed growers with the first field year crop of 2020, creating a clean seed source for crops in future years. Nearly all early field generation seed lots in North Dakota are planted in very isolated areas in the western part of the state. Inspection results indicated freedom from viruses. Threat by aphid populations, mosaic or late blight inoculum was very low and not observed. These seed lots provide the basis for future North Dakota seed production.

The cycle of seed potato certification continues as North Dakota certified seed growers randomly select tubers from 2019 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 2020 crop.

— Report by Kent Sather, director, North Dakota State Seed Department Potato Programs

WISCONSIN

The Wisconsin seed potato crop is strongly diversified and acreage holding steady despite back to back seasons with challenging harvest conditions.

Planting dates for 2019 were slightly delayed for most of Wisconsin’s seed potato acres (7-10 days). It was a cool, wet April and early May due in part to record snow cover across Northern Wisconsin, where an excess of 48 inches of snowpack was to melt and infiltrate. Spring rain also contributed to planting delays, but the bulk of the crop was planted within the normal window for spring planting in the seed area.

A total of 9,243 acres were planted for certified seed potatoes, approximately 1% less than 2018. The top Wisconsin varieties in certification were:

  1. Frito Lay varieties 2,285 acres
  2. Silverton Russet 847 acres
  3. Lamoka 830 acres
  4. Snowden 712 acres
  5. Atlantic 662 acres
  6. Red Norland selections 841 acres

Varieties with increasing grower interest over the past three seasons include:

                         2017    2018    2019

  • Lamoka           660      733      831
  • Manistee          62       157      222
  • Lady Liberty     4        31       112
  • Caribou Russet 1        14        70
  • Red Prairie       18       28        44

Others notables include Little Potato Company varieties and UW potato breeding program clones: W8893-1Red, W9433-1rus and 9133-1rus.

The growing season was much cooler than recent years with regular precipitation. Much of the crop is under pivot these days to fill in a few gaps in rainfall that were experienced during the growing season. Vine health was excellent and abundant given the conditions potatoes love to grow in. No late blight was detected in certification inspections. Summer visual certification inspection outcomes were excellent for growers, with only one seed lot rejected for admixture, representing just an acre. All Wisconsin seed that is recertified within Wisconsin’s seed program is both visually inspected and ELISA tested at the Hawaii grow-out.

Bulking was delayed for many varieties with vine-kill dates being pushed further towards fall by 7-10 days based on the calendar. With later vine kill, seed potato harvest started later for many growers, with significant and frequent rain events in September and October creating extremely challenging field conditions. Despite this, the volume and quality of potatoes harvested has remained high, and we are expecting no adverse freeze events to affect the crop before harvest is complete.

Wisconsin welcomed Renee Rioux as the seed potato program administrative director with faculty research/teaching appointment in the Department of Plant Pathology at UW-Madison. We are looking forward to her seed research and its impact, both in Wisconsin and nationally.

— Report by Alex Crockford, program director, Wisconsin Seed Potato Program



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P.O. Box 128
Sparta, MI 49345
616.887.9008
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