Dry Weather Has Maine Growers Hoping for Rain

Published online: Aug 11, 2017 Articles Lauren Abbate
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August is a critical month for the growth of potatoes. With harvest occurring in September, at this time potato fields already have blossomed and the tubers have started to grow from petite new potatoes into full-sized ones—if there’s enough rain, that is.

With abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions affecting the Maine over the last month, especially in northern part of the state, the Maine Potato Board says the size of this year’s yield will likely be down from previous years.

“It’s just been really dry,” says Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board. “When you have a dry year, it doesn’t necessarily affect quality, but it affects the yield.”

Last year’s drought affected growing conditions in most parts of the state through late fall; however, northern Maine was spared the worst of the drought conditions. The 2016 potato harvest was close to a record-breaking yield, producing about 310 pounds per acre statewide. The year before that, the state logged its highest potato yield on record with 320 pounds per acre, according to Flannery.

But the Maine Potato Board doesn’t expect that to be the case this year, given the trend in dry weather.

“We’re not going to break another yield record by any means,” says Flannery. “But August is a big month.”

Flannery says the plants have held up to the dry weather over the last month, which means if the rain does come in August, plants should be healthy enough to absorb the water they need and hopefully bulk up tubers.

Potato growers with irrigation systems have been utilizing that infrastructure over the last four to six weeks, Flannery says, not just in northern Maine but across the central and southern parts of the state as well.

Unlike last year, the abnormally dry and moderate drought conditions this summer are located primarily in northern Maine, according U.S. Drought Monitor reports, whereas last year’s drought did not have such a severe impact.

“There is nothing you can spray on a potato crop to compensate for the lack of water,” says Flannery. “No matter if you’re in the potato business or the carrot business, whatever business you’re in, in agriculture, Mother Nature is pretty tough at times, and you have to deal with that.”

The true scope of the impact this summer’s dry weather will have on the statewide yield per acre of potatoes won’t be known until harvest time next month. Until then, Flannery says, growers can only hope for rain.

 

Source: Bangor Daily News