A dry fall, that resulted in ideal harvest conditions for most Red River Valley crops, is negatively affecting the potato fields near Grand Forks. Between 1,600 and 2,000 dryland acres —those grown without irrigation— were left unharvested because the fields were so dry that dirt lumps were bruising the potatoes, said Ted Kreis, Northern Plains Potato Growers marketing director.
Growers planted about 17,000 to 18,000 acres for the fresh market this year, Kreis added.
The farmers whose crops were left unharvested were waiting for rain to soften the dirt lumps so they wouldn’t bruise the potatoes, then temperatures dropped and froze them. “Early harvest was really good — the first and second week of September,” said Kreis, noting that then conditions turned dry, and little or no rain fell on fields for the remainder of the month.
Some of the farmers who were unable to harvest their red and yellow potatoes because fall 2020 was too dry are the same ones who had to leave fields unharvested last year because they were too wet to support equipment.
Potatoes that are frozen will spoil in storage. ”We left a third of the crop in the ground last year. That was because it was too wet,” said Kelly Grotte, a North Dakota potato farmer.