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San Luis Valley crop looking good, acreage down slightly

Monte Vista, CO — The general consensus on the 2016 San Luis Valley potato crop is that after a cool and somewhat slow start, most of the acreage caught up, and both quality and sizing look good.

Valley wide, planted and potato harvest acreage for the year is down, according to Colorado Potato Administrative Committee Executive Director Jim Ehrlich, who on Aug. 19 said last year was at 52,000 acres. “This year we’re at about 50,900,” he said, adding that normal rotation accounts for some of the decrease.coloradopotatofieldshotIn mid-August most potato vines had yet to die off in the San Luis Valley. With adequate water and no reports of extreme stress or pest issues, the area is looking at a good crop this year, with early loads going out in late August and early September. Photo by Kathleen Thomas Gaspar.

“From what I’ve seen the vines are starting to die back, and the indication is that size is good,” he said. “We had our field day tour this week, and the potatoes in those controlled fields all look very good. So we’re anticipating a good crop.”

The region had not experienced undue stress, Ehrlich said. “We had some warmer days and cooler nights, and we had no problem keeping up with irrigation this year.”

Some growers in the region had started bringing potatoes to the shed in August, and harvest generally runs into mid-October.

As the potato harvest gets under way, many shippers are watching ongoing negotiations with Mexico to signal market openings with that country.

It has been reported that Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto issued two decrees in early August, and the industry is paying close attention to further actions between Mexico and the United States regarding potato shipments that have for years been restricted to a 26-kilometer “buffer zone” inside Mexico’s borders.

Colorado holds a freight advantage in shipping to Mexico, and even with the restrictions, several shippers in the San Luis Valley send a sizeable percentage of their total volume to receivers there.

With the 2015-16 crop, 2,176 loads in all were shipped during the year, down about 400 loads from the year before. Russets made up nearly 99 percent of the crop last year and 97 percent in 2014-15.

Yellows last year were 0.2 percent, down slightly from 0.3 in 2014-15. Interestingly, yellows have declined since 2013, dropping 0.1percent each year.

Reds were 1 percent last year and 2.6 percent the year before, showing an increase of russets in 2015-16.

CPAC does not track organic or specialty acreage, but according to information provided earlier in the year, conventionals comprised 47,000 acres, and organics accounted for 4,000 acres. Russets saw 38,540 acres in conventionals and 3,280 acres, or about 8 percent, was in organics. There were 2,820 acres in conventional reds and 240 acres in organics. Yellows had 3,290 acres in conventional and 280 in organics. And specialties had 2,350 acres in conventional and 200 in organics.

Ehrlich said, “I’ve heard that our organic acreage is up, and a few new growers are trying it.”