Maine Growers Making Up for Lost Time

Record-breaking heat brought the September harvest to a standstill last week.

Published online: Oct 02, 2017 Articles The Associated Press
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Maine’s potato growers are hustling to make up for lost time after the September harvest was brought to a virtual standstill by record-breaking heat last week.

Hot temperatures can cause quality problems for potatoes going into storage, and the region basked in temperatures in the 80s for four consecutive days, the hottest stretch ever recorded this late in the year in Caribou, Maine. The stretch included back-to-back days of 88-degree heat.

“I’m 62 years old and I’ve been in the potato business all my life,” says Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board. “I’ve never seen a fall like this. It’s amazing.”

Growers cut back hours of harvesting—and some stopped altogether—potentially extending the fall potato harvest for five to eight days into mid-October, Flannery says.

Cooler weather has now returned, and growers are harvesting full tilt. Maine, which has about 48,000 acres of potato fields, ranks ninth in the U.S. for potato production. Flannery says the crop quality is good, but the yield could be down slightly.

Dry conditions that included a 16-day stretch with no rain in Caribou will likely have an impact on the yield, says Gary Keough of the New England field office of the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service.

The full impact of heat and dry weather won’t be known until November, after all of the growers have completed their harvest, Keough says.

Flannery characterizes the delayed harvest as “an annoyance” but said it’s better to leave potatoes in the ground for a few days rather than risk jeopardizing them in storage, where warm temperatures can degrade the quality. Favorable weather on tap for the next few weeks should allow growers to finish the harvest without further problems, Flannery says.

 

Source: Portland Press Herald