US(ID): Heat results in lower Northwest potato crop

The most recent forecast of this year's potato crop has production for Northwest potato-producing states down this season when compared to the previous harvest. The dip is related to warm weather throughout the year, though the effects of that weather on production were mitigated by good irrigation.

Production for Idaho, the state with the biggest production, is forecast at 130 million cwt. That's a two percent drop from the previous season's production. Likewise, production for Washington is forecast at 100 million cwt, which is only a one percent decline from last year. Oregon's production is forecast at 21.8 million cwt, which is a three percent drop. Production for the Northwest region is forecast at 252 million cwt.

While harvested area remained static or grew this year for the top-three producing states, lower yields contributed to lighter production. Washington, with 4,000 more acres harvested in 2015 than in 2014, had yields that were 13 cwt per acre lower. Likewise, Washington, with 5,000 more acres, had yields that were 25 cwt per acre lighter. Though harvested acreage remained unchanged in Oregon, yields were down 20 cwt per acre from 2014.

Heat a factor in lower yields
Growers point to unusually warm weather during this year's growing season as a factor in lower yields and lighter overall production. But things could have been worse had growers not known how to handle the heat.

“The biggest problem we faced this year was above-normal heat. It got a little too hot for most of the crops,” said Kent Sutton of Bench Mark Potato in Rexburg, Idaho. “We have good irrigation in the Northwest, so nobody ran out of water. Without good irrigation, we would have had a crop disaster, but having water limits the damage from heat.” That's not to say that the heat was inconsequential. In addition to lower yields, the heat affected crop storage.

“There are some crops that aren't storing quite as well,” said Sutton. “Norkotahs were probably most affected by the heat, and Burbanks can get misshapen tubers and can get too big." Though Sutton is confident that good storage management will ensure there is still good-quality product available through the storage season.

Pre-Thanksgiving market strong
The market, especially leading up to Thanksgiving, has been very good. Prices have climbed a few dollars per carton since the end of harvesting in October and there aren't clear signs that the market will drop in the coming weeks.

“I feel like prices have good strength to them and I expect them to continue to advance through the storage season,” said Sutton. “I think the market will gradually keep working its way higher. There seems to be more demand than supply right now, so the market has a good, strong feel to it.”

For more information:
Kent Sutton
Bench Mark Potato
+1 208 356 7321

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