Despite the serious drop in temperatures and at least 14 inches of snow that fell Tuesday night, some Colorado growers are optimistic about the future of their crops.
Tuesday night, the South Colorado temperatures dropped to between 28-30 degrees. “The temperatures didn’t plunge to anywhere near where they thought they would. It’s a freak cold front coming through and it’s still coming,” says Les Alderete of Skyline Potato Co. in Center, CO., adding that more snow was called for Wednesday night. This is on top of the 14-18 inches of snow covering the potato crops.
“This isn’t a normal occurrence. Normally you don’t get any of these snowstorms until between October 5-10th,” says Alderete. “Those are when you need to have potatoes out because it could freeze.”
Skyline had just begin harvesting potatoes—harvest generally begins September 1st. “I think this will delay the harvest by five to seven days—most growers just started this week,” he says.
Snow may just help
That said, the weather could have been worse and quality issues on the potatoes aren’t expected. “I don’t feel like it’s a freezing frost. We’re in the middle of a drought. I think the temperatures will come down and harvest will be in cooler temperatures,” says Alderete. As for the snow, he says it’s likely going to insulate the crops. “That snow will melt and add moisture and the ground will take it up pretty good. Those who pre-watered their circle Sunday thinking they’d dig Tuesday—they may have to push it off an extra couple of days to dry out. The circles that didn’t pre-water, they may not have to. The snow may give them enough moisture to dig without pre-watering.”
As for the Colorado acreage, Alderete says acreage is up somewhat this fall. “I think yields will be up on early planted potatoes,” he says. “The later planted, they came out in a bloom under cloud cover when we had two weeks of rain and that set them back. The size profile of those will be a bit smaller and a little lighter on yield. When you match the early and late though, we’ll have a normal year.”