Oct 11, 2019Nearly 20% of Idaho potato crop still in ground following hard freeze, says IPC’s Blacker
Farmers in Idaho — the U.S.’s top potato-producing state — have been thrown for a loop by Mother Nature this year. Most recently, sub-freezing temperatures across the state had growers scrambling to finish their harvests early or risk leaving tubers in the ground because of freeze damage.
Spudman ran a story Oct. 10 about Hamer-area farmers in Eastern Idaho rallying together to help a neighboring farm beat the hard freeze, which led to a Facebook video going viral. Many growers in other parts of the state weren’t able to get all of their crop out of the ground, however.
Travis Blacker, industry relations director of the Idaho Potato Commission, told the Idaho Statesman that 15-20% of the potato crop is still in the ground. Temperatures dropped to near 10 degrees overnight Oct. 9-10 and stayed below freezing for more than 24 hours.
“Some are still harvesting right now, some are going to shut down operations and hope,” Blacker told the Statesman on Oct. 11. “They’ve been working around the clock to try to get everything in.”
Harvesting during sub-freezing temperatures is not only bad for the potatoes, but also risky for workers and equipment because of an increased chance of accidents.
Like many other areas of the U.S., a wetter-than-normal spring in Idaho led to planting delays this year. In addition, the state experienced some early frost. Blacker told Spudman on Oct. 1 that yields projected to be down this year, although the quality of the tubers looked good.
In Wisconsin and the Red River Valley, heavy rains have delayed harvests. Less than half the crop was harvested in those regions as of Oct. 2.
To further complicate issues, a cold front moved into the Upper Midwest just before the weekend. While temperatures could get close to freezing in the coming days, the forecast doesn’t call for anything nearly as severe as what Idaho experienced earlier in the week.