Wisconsin certainly had its share of weather challenges in 2018. Much of the Wisconsin potato fields received a major layer of snow while seed shipping and the commercial planting season was underway.
The abnormally cool month of April and 18-20 inches of snow delayed frost coming out of the northern soils, truck availability for seed shipping and seed cutting operations for many seed growers.
Despite this, May was one of the mildest in recent years, with relatively low precipitation and warm temperatures. Late May had very high temperatures and early June brought rain, delaying some planting and tilling operations into early and mid-June.
Seed potato acreage planted was up again in 2018, with slightly over 9,300 acres. The increase includes cultivars used for fresh market russets, specialty potatoes and potato chips. Acreage in the certified seed potato program has gradually increased since 2013, up 1,000 acres over that time period.
During mid-summer, growers noticed that tuber set was quite variable with notable exceptions on either side of the norms.
Most of the vegetative portion of the growing season was drier than in recent years, with northern Wisconsin growers running irrigation pivots far more often than in recent memory. The dearth came to an end during mid-to-late bulking and vine-killing stages of the crop. Dryland corners are showing a marked difference in yield and tuber size.
Harvest began with great digging weather, followed by half-day harvests with above average high temperatures, switching dramatically to consistent mist and rain, and cool and cloudy conditions pushing harvest into early October. The bulk of harvest has had nice cool nighttime temperatures for running air systems. Quality has been generally very high throughout the harvest period.