Hot and dry weather has slowed this fall’s San Luis Valley’s potato crop, and many growers in late August said they were still waiting to begin digging.
Although several said the harvest would begin five to seven days later than usual, at least one grower had potatoes that were ready for digging in August.
Worley & McCullough Inc., Monte Vista, Colo., started harvesting russets on Aug. 22, said Trampas McCormick, manager.
Potato quality looked good in late August, McCormick said.
The size profile was small, he said, but larger sizes should be available later in the season as potatoes in the ground size up.
“We’ll have some really good size in the crop,” he said.
David Tonso, partner at shipper Cañon Potato Co., Center, Colo., predicted about normal overall sizing.
Some new-crop potatoes started shipping on Aug. 22, he said.
“We’ve got some starting early, but the majority won’t start until after Labor Day,” he said.
Sizing was a bit smaller in late August than at the same time a year earlier, but growers were planning to wait an extra week before harvesting so potatoes could size up, Tonso said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Economic Research Service reported in its Aug. 25 Vegetables and Melons Outlook that crop reporters in Colorado said a few days earlier that 89% of the crop was in fair or good condition.
Jim Ehrlich, executive director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee, Monte Vista, said he expects to see an overall average crop.
He expects overall sizing to be average, with quite a bit of variability throughout the valley.
Steve Tillman, manager, grower-shipper Monte Vista Potato Grower Co-op Association, Monte Vista, also said growers were expecting average crops with average sizing.
Most of the association’s potatoes are russets, but it markets some yellows, and Tillman said he hopes to have a small volume of reds this year.
Mark Bisel, owner and sales manager for shipper Apex Produce Co. LLC, Center, said a small hailstorm hit crops in August, but the vines already had been killed, so it didn’t appear to affect the potatoes.
He expected digging to begin between Sept. 10-15.
Bill Metz, owner, Metz Potato Co. LLC, Monte Vista, said on Aug. 31 that he expected to begin digging about Sept. 15, about five days later than normal.
Sizing looked good in late August, he said.
“From what I’m digging and seeing, it’s the same (sizing) as last year,” Metz said.