Northwest Crop Slightly Late

Published online: Jul 10, 2017 Articles Chris Crawford
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Washington and Oregon potato growers have been slowed slightly by a wet winter and spring. But so far, the crops appear to be worth the wait.

Washington growers planted 170,000 acres of potatoes in 2016. Acreage and volumes are expected to be similar in 2017.

“Last year was crazy early, as the weather promoted early-season growth,” says Chris Voigt, executive director for the Washington State Potato Commission. “This year seems to be much more normal.”

Voigt says Washington has some of the most consistent growing conditions of anywhere in the country, so there is little fluctuation in volumes.

“We typically produce about 10 billion pounds of potatoes each growing season,” he says. “It has been a perfect growing season. We got off to a slow start due to cooler temperatures, but once the soil temperature got up, the crop had great emergence and continues to grow in a steady fashion.”

Voigt says there have ve been zero crop issues so far from pests or weather.

“It’s been perfect growing weather—warm days and cool nights,” he says. “Potatoes love that.”

Bill Brewer, executive director of the Portland-based Oregon Potato Commission, says Oregon’s fresh potato market represents just under 13 percent of total U.S. production.

“This season is a few days later than last year, but last year was earlier than normal,” Brewer says. “My board is predicting no change—around 2.5 billion pounds of production.”

Ralph Schwartz, vice president of marketing, sales and innovation for Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Potandon Produce, says the company starts supplying russet and colored potatoes out of Osceola, Wash., in July.

“So far, it’s been a roller coaster summer with weather,” he says. “We had early heat, and then it’s been cooler with rains in June and temperatures in the 50s and 60s; 70s to 80s is normal.”

Schwartz says everyone had adequate water this year from the heavy snowpack that accumulated over the winter.

Troutdale, Ore.-based Strebin Farms’ potatoes are one week later this season than they have been the past three years, says owner and manager Dan Strebin. He says sizing also is behind for all potatoes—yellows, reds and russets. Strebin Farms will pack storage crop through the end of July, then new crop the first week of August.

“The set looks nice on the new plants—a nice profile with a full range of size,” Strebin says.

Dale Hayton, sales manager for Valley Pride Sales in Burlington, Wash., says the company grows red, gold, white and purple potatoes in the Skagit Valley of northwestern Washington.

Amstad Produce in Sherwood, Ore., expects its new potato crop to be ready after the first week of August because of weather delays. Normally, it would be ready the last week of July, says partner Jeff Amstad.

“Carton prices on russets have been low for quite a while, but it’s been picking up the past couple months,” says Amstad.

Amstad Produce expects to have red and yellow potatoes August through Jan. 1 out of the Willamette Valley.

Myron Ayers, sales manager for Norm Nelson, Inc. in Burlington, Wash., which produces Double-N Potatoes, says the company should start potato harvest in September.

“At this point of the growing season, we expect an average crop in yield and pack-out,” Ayers says.

Wong Potatoes in Klamath Falls, Ore., finished a decent potato season May 1, says company president Dan Chin.

“For the most part, we saw good results and decent returns,” says Chin. “But russets were weak in returns

Like others, Wong Potatoes’ 2017 crop is delayed because of the wet winter and spring, with about half the crop a couple of weeks behind normal growth.


Source: The Packer