Oct 18, 2019
Harvest update: Great Lakes region, Maine making progress getting potatoes out of ground

Potato farmers in Wisconsin have been able to make solid progress harvesting their crop in recent days. Following weeks of above-average rain, that’s a welcome development.

Tamas Houlihan, executive director of the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association, said most smaller farms have wrapped up harvest, but the larger farms still have a “ways to go.” Temperatures have been cool, but not below freezing, so frost damage should be minimal.

“The forecast for the next seven days also shows lows mostly in the 30s and 40s, so growers are optimistic that they’ll get the rest of the spuds out,” Houlihan said via email.

The extreme rain during September did take its toll in some fields, however, leaving some areas unworkable.

“There is great variability among fields; some have less than 5% loss, while others may be 100% loss,” Houlihan said. “Overall, this year is nowhere near as bad as the 2018 harvest in Wisconsin, where we lost over 5,000 acres of potatoes.

“The size profile is smaller than average this year, but the quality has been very good.”

Across the lake in Michigan, conditions haven’t been as wet as Wisconsin or as cold and wet as the Red River Valley. Things did turn wet as farmers finish up their harvest, however.

“Most of harvest is completed,” said Kelly Turner, executive director, Michigan Potato Industry Commission. “Although in spots, yield was down a bit but gravity was good and thus quality was high. The tail end of harvest is back to being wet and may have slightly lower quality due to the heavy wet weather.”

RELATED: Cold, rain wreaks havoc on Red River Valley harvest

Further east, Maine growers are in the process of finishing up their harvest. Maine Potato Board Director Don Flannery said less than 10% remained in the field as of Oct. 16, but growers were eager to get as much out as they could before parts of the nor’easter storm hit.

“Have a storm coming in (Oct. 16) that could give us 1 inch or more of rain, which will keep us out to of the fields for a day or two, but I think by Sunday we should be done,” Flannery said. “Overall, yields will be about average, which is good since it was very dry in most production areas this summer.

“Quality should be good. Will need some time in storage to really know, but I don’t expect any issues.”

MORE NEWS on the 2019 potato harvest

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