MAINE INITIAL CROP QUALITY GOOD, DESPITE RAIN, TORNADOES

Published online: Oct 04, 2011 Potato Storage, Potato Harvesting, Seed Potatoes
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Maine Potato Harvest

Although it has been one of the tougher years for potato growers in Aroostook County (Maine, U.S.) with crop damage from three tornadoes and excessive rainfall, officials with the Maine Potato Board are downplaying rumors of extensive crop loss.

Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board, said Monday that this year's potato harvest is only in the preliminary stages.

A small portion of the crop has been harvested and taken to processing facilities, such as McCain Foods in Easton,
and to chip plants, but the bulk of the approximately 56,000 acres of potatoes planted are still in the ground.

"Right now, the crop that has been harvested looks good," said Flannery. "The potatoes are a good size, they are healthy. It is a hard call because it is so early, but from what we've seen so far, the quality looks good."

Flannery said that rumors that 20 to 30 percent of the crop has been lost due to weather conditions are not accurate.

This growing season has been hampered by severe weather, including three tornadoes that went through the area in early June. Heavy rains associated with the tornadoes destroyed crops in some fields and washed away the topsoil in many. Once the topsoil is gone, the productive yield of acreage is reduced dramatically and the value of the land can plummet. Subsequent erosion created deep gullies in a number of fields, and the rain and resulting damage also suffocated seeds.

In one instance, a potato field on Woodland Center Road in Caribou became so flooded the runoff spilled over onto the roadway. Growers in the Caribou and Fort Fairfield areas were most heavily affected.

"We have lost some of the crop due to the tornadoes taking some of the topsoil and the rain," said Flannery. "I would estimate that 10 percent of the crop may have been lost."

The past five days have benefited the industry by helping to dry out the fields, Flannery said Monday, adding that he feels that growers have been proactive in preventing the spread of late blight.

SOURCE: Bangor Daily News

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