June 24, 2018
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Potato official: Crop is looking like ‘a great one’

Contributed | BDN
Contributed | BDN
BRUCE ROOPE, of Roope Farm in Presque Isle, digs up some of the Shepody potatoes that were planted this spring in a Reach Road field to check their size and quality. Roope said the potatoes are looking good and hopes more rain will fall by September. This year Maine farmers planted 55,500 acres of potatoes; 10 percent of those are outside of Aroostook County. (Staff photo/Scott Mitchell Johnson)
By Scott Mitchell Johnson Presque Isle Star Herald, Special to the BDN

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Officials with the Maine Potato Board say this year’s “ideal growing season” should lead to a bountiful crop.

“Farmers planted 55,500 acres of potatoes in the state,” said Tim Hobbs, director of development and grower relations for the board, adding that 90 percent of the acreage is in Aroostook County.

“The growers are optimistic,” he said. “A lot of people have been out digging samples, and they like what they see. As long as we can maintain moisture on a regular basis, the crop is going to be a great one.”

Hobbs said while it has been “a little bit drier” in the St. John Valley and in the Houlton area, “things have been ideal in central Aroostook.”

Also helping is that no late blight has been reported in potato production areas of the state.

“It’s been a long time since we haven’t had late blight in those areas, so that’s to our advantage,” he said.

This summer has seen a string of 80-degree days, high humidity and driving rains, but Hobbs said the varying weather conditions wouldn’t negatively affect the crop.

“The heat will affect the crop,” he said. “If you’ve ever driven around when it’s one of those oppressively hot days the plants will look wilted. When you get heat and wind, the plants will fold right up. However, we don’t get enough heat for a long enough time to affect the quality or the yield.”

By mid-September growers will be in the fields harvesting their crops.

“If we have ideal harvest conditions, growers could be done in three weeks, which is the amount of time area schools let out for harvest recess,” said Hobbs. “But knowing we can’t control the weather, conditions probably won’t be ideal. You can assume and hope, but you can’t control the weather; however, all in all things are looking well.”

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