County potatoes recovering after wet and soggy season

Posted Aug. 02, 2013, at 8:25 a.m.

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Industry leaders with the Maine Potato Board said Thursday that after a wet and soggy spring which forced some growers to do some replanting, crops are recovering and if the weather holds, Aroostook County is on track to have a bountiful potato harvest.

Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board in Presque Isle, said on Thursday that farmers have seen “pretty decent growing conditions” despite a wet and soggy May and June.

“We had a challenging six weeks to plant the crop,” he admitted. “The moisture is still lingering, but the crop is pretty decent. Its pretty healthy. We have made up a little ground from what we dealt with in the spring. We may have had some damage that has lingered that we can’t see yet, but we hope that the next six to eight weeks will be warm and dry and bring us into a smooth harvest. The potato blossoms are decent and the crop looks good so far.”

Growers and their crops began taking a beating in May, which featured above normal precipitation in most areas of northern and eastern Maine, according to information provided by the National Weather Service in Caribou. The most rain occurred from May 23-26, when widespread precipitation of two to four inches fell in those areas, with local amounts of four to five inches in parts of eastern Aroostook and coastal Washington counties. More than 5.5 inches of rain was observed in Caribou, which was 2.18 inches above normal. It was the wettest May in Caribou since 1984, according to the weather service, and the fourth wettest May since officials began keeping records in 1939.

Heavy thunderstorms the first weekend in June also affected growers in the St. John Valley, especially in the areas around Van Buren and Hamlin. The National Weather Service confirmed that a tornado touched down in the area on Sunday, June 2, leaving a path about 50 yards wide and 80 yards long about two miles north of Eagle Lake.

Hamlin and Van Buren got heavier rain and growers suffered crop losses from seed potatoes washing out of their fields.

Despite the problems with the water, Flannery said, there have been few problems with diseases such as late blight or pests.

Flannery said that growers planted approximately 55,000 acres of potatoes across the state this year, which is down slightly over last year due to market conditions.