Rain extending potato harvest
H&N photo by Gary Thain Potatoes are
harvested along Highway 39 near Merrill
Wednesday. Rainy weather has pushed back
potato harvests for some Basin growers
October 6, 2005 By HOLLY
The potato season is ending somewhat the way it
began - with rain. Rainy and snowy weather this
spring, 2.46 inches of precipitation by May 31
compared to an average of 0.95 inches, delayed
planting for most fields by several weeks.
And now, slightly better
than average precipitation is extending the
harvest. Some growers have been able to harvest in
the last two to three weeks while others are
waiting on late-growing varieties such as russet
"We've had quite a bit more rain on the south end
of the valley," said John Cross, general manager
of the Newell Potato Cooperative, and a Tulelake
area potato grower. Cross planted 260 acres of
russet Burbanks this year.
"We dug one load Sunday," Cross said, but with
almost a full load, they had to stop because of
With more rain earlier in the week and clearer
weather since, Cross hoped to be harvesting by
"I would say the harvest would be at full bore by
Friday," Cross said.
Cross is seeing the same circumstances for other
russet variety growers in the cooperative.
"Most of the guys were
planning on starting a week later than they
normally do because of the late planting," Cross
So far crop results are a mixed bag for Cross.
"The early planting of russet Burbanks of mine I'm
afraid aren't going to be very large," Cross said,
but notes that the yield is good.
Tulelake area grower Kevin Baley, who planted 32
acres of russet Burbanks to sell through the
Newell Potato Cooperative, and 170 acres of Frito
Lay variety for potato chips on contract for Frito
Lay in Modesto, Calif., wasn't able to plant until
June 3, almost a full month later than he'd
Baley, too has been slowed
down by the rain this week, but says the
conditions are improving.
"It's starting to dry up now," Baley said.
And he's seeing good
results on his crop so far.
"They're in great shape," Baley said. "Size is a
little bit smaller than last year."
Merrill-area grower Dan
Chin with Wong Potatoes says the harvest
conditions are about typical.
"It's not too bad," Chin said. "A little bit of a
struggle with the weather. Makes it kind of tough
to harvest, but we're working on getting the crops
out. We're probably close to halfway."
Chin planted 780 acres of
a variety of potatoes this year, including russet
Burbanks, Yukon golds, reds, purples, Sierra golds
and the small potato variety, Klamath Pearl.
"We actually had a late start with our plantings,"
Chin said. "With all the spring rains we were
about two weeks late in planting, but we had a
really good summer to grow the crops. We think we
made up a little bit of that lateness with a good
growing summer and a fairly good fall. The frosts
in the fall didn't come until later."
Yield and quality have varied from one planting to
the next, Chin said, but overall are at about
"I'd say we're kind of on the average as far as
yield," Chin said. "Quality varies field to field.
Some fields we're seeing good quality and some
fields we're seeing a few disease problems but not
According to a July report from the Oregon
Agricultural Statistics Service, an estimated
35,000 acres of potatoes will be harvested this
year, five percent fewer than last year.
Throughout the Pacific Northwest, in Oregon,
Washington, and Idaho, potato acreage is expected
to be 6 percent lower than in 2004.
This is good news for growers when it comes to
"So far they've been good, real good," Chin said.
"We're probably about maybe a third to a half as
much per sack than we did last year. Which last
year we were in the hole, so this year it's