Aug 12, 2019Maine crop coming into form, in spite of dry conditions
Like most potato-growing regions of the U.S., a wet spring caused planting delays in Aroostook County, Maine. As the calendar turned to summer, conditions turned arid, which has become the norm in recent years for the area.
“It has been dry,” said Robbie Irving of Caribou-based Irving Farms. “Weather patterns have changed in the past five to 10 years, and that’s how it’s been.” The Irvings have several manmade ponds on their properties, and are currently in the process of adding another.
Caribou saw approximately 2.5 inches of rain during the month of July, which is 40% below average. The first 11 days of August brought 0.62 inches, more than 50% below normal.
To boot, infrastructure in the area makes growers’ access to water for irrigation spotty. While extremely rocky, Aroostock County’s loamy soil — tabbed “Caribou loam” — retains moisture well, however, which has helped. With harvest about five weeks away, tuber development is close to normal.
The Maine Potato Board operates the Maine Seed Potato Board farm. Executive Director Don Flannery said a good dousing of hail-free rain would certainly be welcomed, but added the crop should be in pretty good shape, given the late planting and dry summer.
“You never really get back those days you lost,” Flannery said. “Looks like we’ll be making a crop with what we have, with not much (rain) in the forecast.”
Maine growers raved about the Caribou russet variety developed by the University of Maine that became available in 2016. Flannery said the tubers are more consistent in size and shape than any he’s seen.
“They do not seem to have many defects,” Flannery said. “They have a texture that bakes well, boils well, they’re moister than Norkotahs, and they have good flavor.”
Added Keith LaBrie of LaBrie Farms in St. Agatha: “They have a lot of potential.”
(Top photo: Robbie Irving holds up white potatoes at his family farm in Maine.)