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Annual Potato Field Day: Northern Plains region ‘would benefit from rain’

Andy Robinson, extension potato agronomist, introduces a speaker during Northern Plains Potato Growers Association Field Day.It’s too late for much of the area’s potato crop, but many spud fields would benefit from a good rain, and soon. “If it’s in a day or two days or five days — rain would help,” said Andrew Robinson, Fargo, N.D.,-based extension potato specialist with both North Dakota State University and the University of Minnesota. Weeks of warm, dry weather have stressed non-irrigated potatoes, and a shot of late-summer precipitation would boost less-advanced spuds. Rain also would soften fields and make them easier to dig for harvest, Robinson and others say. Robinson was among the nearly 200 people who attended the annual Potato Field Day tour on Thursday, Aug. 23. Most of the presenters were NDSU and University of Minnesota extension scientists who discussed their work involving crop disease, insects and plant breeding.

As is the case with area crops overall, potatoes were planted later than usual because of uncooperative spring weather. But the generally warm, dry summer pushed the crop, or accelerated its development, said Donavon Johnson, president of the Northern Plains Potato Growers Association. Potato harvest already is underway in south-central Minnesota. It’s expected to begin in earnest in northwest Minnesota and North Dakota shortly after Labor Day.

North Dakota and Minnesota are among the country’s top potato producers. The Red River Valley of eastern North Dakota and western Minnesota — where most of the two states’ potato production occurs — is the nation’s leading producer of red potatoes and the only region that produces in volume for the chip, fresh, seed and process markets. Read more