Weather turns from foe to ally for potato growers
Some potato growers in Washington and Oregon had trouble getting their crop in the ground, as wet and cold conditions lingered into planting season. However, once they did, the growing process seemed supercharged, they said.
“We were all concerned this spring about the upcoming crop, due to a late planting,” said Chris Voigt, executive director of the Moses Lake-based Washington State Potato Commission.
“We still had snow on the ground the third week in March, which has never happened before.”
Early potatoes, normally planted in late February, were nearly a month behind schedule, Voigt said.
Then, the weather changed dramatically enough that the spuds had nearly caught up to their normal schedule by June 20, Voigt said.
“So far, the crop looks very promising, with the perfect weather we have had,” Voigt said. “We should see good yields and near perfect quality.”
Acreage in Washington is up, but that’s due to increased demand for processing potatoes, Voigt said.
Mount Vernon, Wash.-based Skagit Valley’s Best Produce, which finished its 20th packing/marketing season in early May, had all of its red, yellow, white and purple potatoes in the ground, and the crop was making good progress, said Matt Yeoman, salesman.
“We’ve have had pretty fair weather so far this spring and early summer, and we hope this continues through the growing season,” he said.
Mount Vernon-based Norm Nelson Inc. finished planting in early June, said Myron Ayers, sales manager.
“We expect a bumper crop and a terrific market, because we don’t know any better, right?” he said.
Weather wasn’t a factor in Nelson’s planting schedule, Ayers said.
“We did not miss a planting date in six weeks,” he said. “Western Washington usually gets some rain, but we got none. We had (an) ideal planting situation. We are irrigating a little here, already, which is quite unusual for folks to be irrigating this early in June.”
The crop seemed on schedule for a mid-September start, with some, perhaps, starting a couple of weeks before that, Ayers said.
Everything seemed on-time for Harrah, Wash.-based Bouchey Potato, said Brenda Curfman, office manager.
“We’re pretty much on schedule — we’ll start harvesting conventional the second week of July,” she said. “It’s about the same as normal.”
Bouchey has conventional and organic reds, yellows, russets and fingerlings, she said.
Oregon’s potato crop was following much the same pattern, said Gary Roth, the new executive director of the Oregon Potato Commission in Portland.
“I have not heard anything adverse, as yet, in terms of weather or anything that would diminish the quality or quality of the crop,” he said.
“I believe we have more acres in production this year than last, so we’re expecting volume overall to increase.”
There were some weather challenges early, some growers said.
“We were about 10 days behind because of the weather, but with the decent weather we’ve seen in the last three weeks, everything is caught up,” said Paul Kern, salesman with Clackamas, Ore.-based Botsford & Goodfellow Inc.
“Size is better than we expected — better than it should be. The weather over there has been favorable — it hasn’t been overly hot.”
The company hopes to begin harvesting Aug. 1, which would be about normal, Kern said.
“We’re typically one of the later districts,” he said, noting that his company grows only russet norkotahs.
The crop may be late at Klamath Falls, Ore.-based Riverside Potato, said Terry Guthrie, owner.
“I’d say we’re probably two to three weeks late this year, overall,” said Guthrie, who planted reds, yellows and russets.
“Some guys planted early, and they’ll be up, but the whole Pacific Northwest is going to be late.”
The crop was looking good in its early stages, said Ron Settlemire, sales manager with Wong Potatoes Inc., Klamath Falls.
“The upcoming crop looks good for our next season. It’s still early, but it looks good so far,” he said. “Weather is cooperating, and the water (this) year looks better than last year.”
Last year’s plant was curtailed “a bit,” because of water concerns, Settlemire said.
“If you can’t get water to a crop, there is no reason to plant it,” he said.
As of June 24, 50-pound cartons of russet Norkotah potatoes from the Columbia Basin Washington-Umatilla Basin Oregon District were $11-13 for size 40s; $14-15, 50s; $15, 60s and 70s; $13, 80s; $11, 90s; and $10, 100s, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
A year earlier, the same product was $8.50-10, size 40s; $12.50-15, 50s; $13-15, 60s and 70s; $10.50-13, 80s; $10-11, 90s; and $9-10, 100s.
This year, 50-pound cartons of round reds out of the Kern District of California were $23, size A; $22-24, B; and $40, creamers ¾- to 1 5/8-inch, the USDA reported June 24.
A year earlier, they were $10-11, size A; $16-17, B; and $28-30, creamers ¾- to 15/8-inch.
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