Potato crop ‘looking great’ thanks to rain in September

Posted Oct. 14, 2010, at 7:03 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 29, 2011, at 11:49 a.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — With 80 percent to 85 percent of the estimated 55,000 acres of Aroostook County potatoes out of the ground, officials with the Maine Potato Board said Thursday that growers are seeing average yields of high-quality potatoes this year.

Tim Hobbs, director of development and grower relations for the Maine Potato Board, said that this year’s crop is “looking great.”

“It is looking much better than we thought it would after the dry growing season that we had,” he noted. “The entire state was dry, but the rain we got from Hurricane Earl made all the difference in the world. That really helped get us up where we needed to be.”

Last year, Mainers saw a soggy summer. But the state saw seemingly endless sun and high temperatures this year. Growers saw significantly less rain in August, which is typically when most of the potato crop bulks up.

Despite the lack of summer rainfall, a soggy September allowed the crop to blossom, according to Hobbs.

“If we weren’t supposed to get all of that rain on Friday, I think almost 100 percent of the growers would be done harvesting their crop,” he said. “But if we see good weather after that, I think everyone should be done by the middle of next week.”

Hobbs said that growers saw “zero cases of late blight” this year, a rare occurrence and something that Hobbs said he has not seen for more than a decade.

Last year was a very successful year for potato growers, as the value of Maine’s 2009 crop came in at more than $150 million. The figure was up 5 percent from 2008.

Maine farmers harvested more than 1.5 billion pounds of potatoes from 55,500 acres of fields in 2009.

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