( Photo: Alejandro Duarte; Source: Unsplashed )

An increase in planted area and harvested area highlight the Maine potato crop, according to the first potato crop forecast from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

While overall U.S. potato planted area is down 6.4% and U.S. harvested area is down 7.5% compared with a year ago, Maine’s planted and harvested area are up modestly.

The USDA estimated Maine’s planted area at 52,000 acres in 2019, up 6.1% from a year ago. Area harvested in Maine was 51,500 acres, also 6.1% higher than last year.

It is hard to compare Maine’s share of the total U.S. crop, since the agency this year discontinued acreage estimates for Illinois, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina and Virginia.

Maine was once the leading producer of potatoes in the U.S., exceeding 200,000 acres in the 1940s.

Growers endured a dry summer this year, but potato plants with green tops benefited from a late August rain, said Bob Davis, president of the Maine Farmers Exchange, Presque Isle.

In general, russet potatoes saw the most boost from the rain, while round potatoes saw generally lower yields by comparison.

“The rule of thumb this year was that if it’s a round potato, then your yields in general were down. And if it was long potato, which means basically a longer growing season so the tops (were) green at the end August and early September, then you had a stronger year.”

Any short season potatoes, such as round white, round reds and yellow varieties, were down from perhaps 5% to 20%, he said.

Russets are grown for McCains and Cavendish processors and also for the fresh market. The russets have shown straight shape this year and better appearance than a year ago.

“I’m going to say we had average to above average yields for the state on our russets as we did last year,” he said. 

“Total number of cwt. in storage is going to be up on burbank and caribou russets and norkotahs, and probably down on the round whites, reds and the yellow-flesh,” he said. 

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