Emily Hone of the Bingham County Chronicle in Idaho reports that the unusual and unpredictable weather that has plagued Idaho’s farmers the past few years progressed this year from crops being planted up to three weeks late, slowing germination and emergence of the plants, to harvest being late and taking place at unusual hours. At least in Bingham County.
As harvesting of the 2019 fall grain crop is winding down, the work of getting the potato crop out of the ground began in some places a couple of weeks ago but is progressing slowly due to excessive heat.
It has growers for the most part digging potatoes in the wee hours of the morning and quitting the fields before noon.
According to Clay Anderson, co-manager of Garth VanOrden Farms with Garth and his son Sean, potatoes cool off slowly if they’re still in the ground when the temperature is high, but if they’re out of ground cover, they don’t have the chance. They quickly break down and begin to rot.
“You have to be extremely careful about the temperature if you’re growing for the fresh market and storage,” said Garth, who began harvesting his 2,000 acres of potatoes this week.
“Because of the heat, we’ve started digging our potatoes as early as 3 a.m.” he said, “and sometimes we get to go until noon, but most times we have to stop earlier.”
VanOrden Farms grows both the Narkotah and Russet Burbank variety of potatoes, and Garth said while weather problems don’t seem to have affected his crop’s quality this year, yield is down anywhere from eight to 10 percent.