After two straight subpar autumns, potato growers on Prince Edward Island, Canada, are breathing a sigh of relief that 2010 has gone so well.
The island had as good a summer for growing potatoes as Greg Donald, general manager of the Charlottetown-based Prince Edward Island Potato Board, has seen in several years.
A week of dry, hot, windy weather at the end of August, however, left growers concerned, Donald said.
“It took the fizz out of the beautiful-looking fields,” he said. “Growers were particularly concerned about the burbanks.”
But the favorable weather returned, Donald said, and as of Oct. 21, with the crop 80% harvested, growers were happy — particularly compared with how they felt the past two years, when excessive rains in the fall plagued harvests.
“We’re pleasantly surprised with how they turned out so well,” he said.
The contrast between last season and this season could not be more stark, said Gary Linkletter, president and co-owner of Linkletter Farms Ltd., Summerside, Prince Edward Island.
“Last fall was the worst fall ever, and this is probably the best,” he said.
Linkletter Farms wrapped up harvest Oct. 19 — its earliest finish ever, Linkletter said.
As of Oct. 22, harvest was about 85% completed, said Brian Beaton, potato coordinator for the Prince Edward Island Department of Agriculture, Charlottetown.
Dry, hot weather at the beginning of September reduced sizing in some field on the eastern half of the island, but the majority of the crop has gone into storage in good shape, Beaton said.
“Overall, we’re excited about the quality,” he said. “It’s quite a bit better than last year. There’s been very little blight.”
Quality has been very good, with very few of the blight and rot problems that nagged growers last season, Donald said. Linkletter also reported no moisture-related problems to speak off.
Nevertheless, what this summer growers thought would be a bumper crop is instead, because of the poor late-August growing weather, average to above-average, with volumes expected in the 24-25 million cwt. range, Donald said.
Volumes would likely be “on the high side of average,” Linkletter predicted. Sizing on burbanks was down slightly because of the patch of bad weather late in the growing season, he said.
Acreage was about 84,500 this year, down just 500 from 2009, Donald said.