This year’s potatoes may have gone into the ground a little late, but with good growing conditions since, the crop is catching up.
“We had some nice heat in June and when (the plants) emerged we gained ground,” said P.E.I. Potato Board general manager Greg Donald.
Conditions have been so good in some parts of P.E.I. that Knutsford grower Karl Smallman is already suggesting there’s potential for a bumper crop, if the right recipe of moisture, sunshine and heat is maintained.
“The amount of moisture we have right now, it’s fantastic,” Smallman commented. “So, if we can keep getting shots like this every week or so, it would be great.”
Where the difference from last year to this year is really noticeable is in western P.E.I., Donald said.
He noted the west was particularly dry the last two growing seasons but, this year, it is ahead of the rest of the province in terms of moisture levels.
There was more rainfall across P.E.I. in June this year than in June of 2018, and while central and eastern P.E.I. could benefit from some rainfall any time now, conditions have remained moist up west.
Donald said the whole province is still running a little ahead of normal for precipitation. While growing degree days are a little behind normal, he said the crop, Islandwide, is still better off than last year.
“Overall, I would say, a very good start to the crop.”
“All the fields look good,” said Smallman. “The chance of having a really fantastic crop is really good right now.”
But the farmer stressed current cloudy, damp weather conditions are ideal for the spread of blight, suggesting the challenge this week could be to have a big enough weather window to get the entire crop blight-sprayed.
Troy Smallman, farm manager for WP Griffin Inc., said things are shaping up nicely for his company too.
“There’s no way we would ever go through another year like last year again, so we’re pretty optimistic this is going to be a way better year.
“It started off cold and damp. It wasn’t that nice of a spring,” he said of a planting season similar to 2018.
“But right now I’m happy.”
Of course, he is also well aware of the threat of blight.
“Fields are a little sticky. I wish I could’ve waited but we’re just nervous we’re going to get showers and the wind is going to pick up,” he said of the urgency to get the crop covered while weather conditions permit. “
The forecast going forward is encouraging with a mix of moisture and warmth but without the stifling 30-degree weather that the crop suffered through last July.
“Maybe it’s not that nice for tourists, but it’s a lot nicer for potatoes.”
Total 2019 acreage is not yet known, but Donald anticipates it will be in the 86,000-acre range, about the same as last year. Last year’s crop, particularly in western P.E.I., suffered from dry conditions during the growing season, and then conditions turned wet, cold and almost impossible during the harvest. About 6,800 acres went unharvested.
Donald said there is only a small portion of last year’s crop still in storage and the fresh supply is all but cleaned up.
There has been a limited harvest of new potatoes already, Donald said, but most of the crop is still in the vegetative stage.
“There are fields now that have already shook hands, so to speak,” he said in reference to rows filling in.