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Dry conditions during growing season affecting current harvest

In sharp contrast with the 2011 production season, potato growers in the Red River Valley may have to deal with the impact of dry weather as they begin production on this year’s crop. “For the most part, we’ve been drier than average,” said Ted Kreis, marketing director for the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association in East Grand Forks, MN. “Last year, we had a problem with crops getting drowned out. [This year,] we could have used some additional rain.”

Owing to last year’s problems with precipitation, North Dakota slipped to sixth position among the CropOverviewAccording to the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, 20 percent of the 2012 crop had been harvested by Sept. 18. Rainfall was not as plentiful during the current production season, and growers were expected to do additional washing. According to the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, product movement from North Dakota and Minnesota as of Sept. 21 was ahead of movement for the same timeframe in 2011. (Photo courtesy of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association)nation’s top potato producers during 2011. Minnesota fell to the seventh position for the same reason.

The net effect of dryness during the current production season, Mr. Kreis went on to say, is that dirt lumps will come up with the potatoes as they are dug. “They may need additional washing to get the dirt out,” Mr. Kreis told The Produce News on Sept. 18.

Dry conditions in 2012 highlight the importance of crop irrigation for the valley’s growers.

Generally speaking, the valley’s growers plant potatoes in May, although activity can extend into June. Vine killing for the fresh market began over a month ago for product being sold out of the field. Production for storage potatoes began several weeks ago. According to Mr. Kreis, the fresh market accounts for roughly 20 percent of potatoes produced. The Red River Valley has approximately 250 growers producing a mix of reds, russets, yellows and whites.

Mr. Kreis said that 20 percent of the Red River Valley’s potato crop had been harvested as of Sept. 18.

Mr. Kreis was asked how this season’s crop is shaping up. “The early results are all over the board depending upon the growing area,” he replied. “It is a little early to tell about sizing and quality.” He is looking for higher yields this season, and said that he expects North Dakota and Minnesota to return to their typical national rankings during 2012 after data are collected.

The valley’s growers ship product domestically to the Eastern Seaboard and across the northern United States.

On Sept. 21, the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture provided some data on September potato movement from the Red River Valley in its publication, National Potato and Onion Report. According to AMS, supplies were light, and demand was moderate. The market was steady. AMS reported the following prices for Round Red U.S. One: baled five 10-pound film bags, Size A/$7; baled 10 five-pound film bags, Size A/$7.50; 50-pound cartons: Size A/$7.50 and Size B/$9.5-$110; Creamers, 50-pound sacks: Size A/$6 and Size B/$8.50-$10. Tote bags approximately 2,000 pounds per hundredweight: Size A/$10.

AMS also reported that Minnesota had shipped 22 truckloads of potatoes, and North Dakota had shipped 58 truckloads as of Sept. 21. Movement for both states was ahead of figures reported at roughly the same time period during 2011.

The NPPGA plans to exhibit at the Produce Marketing Association Fresh Summit 2012 at booth No. 1839. Mr. Kreis said grower representatives and association staff will be available to talk about this season’s crop.