( Courtesy Northern Plains Potato Growers Association )

Growers in the Red River Valley report that varying weather conditions across the valley could affect harvest conditions and volumes.

“Conditions have varied depending on location,” said Carissa Olsen, chief operating officer of Buxton, N.D.-based NoKota Packers Inc

“Some areas had adequate moisture, some below average and some are very wet.”

Droughts, followed by periods of heavy rain have taken place in the valley this growing season, she added. 

“Most areas have been reporting the quality as good to excellent,” Olsen said. 

“The struggle across the valley right now is very wet conditions as the harvest season starts.”

The growing conditions were good in the southern half of the valley, said Casey Folson, sales and marketing at East Grand Forks, Minn.-based Folson Farms.

The northern half of the valley, which grows nearly 70% of the fresh potatoes, struggled with very dry weather, resulting in average to below average yields, Folson said.

Ted Kreis, marketing and communications director at East Grand Forks, Minn.-based Northern Plains Potato Growers Association, reported a cool spring and a “fairly normal” summer for the southern growing region. 

The northern valley could have used more rain, he said.

“The Red River Valley is the largest dryland growing region in the U.S.,” said David Moquist, sales of Crystal, N.D.-based O.C. Schulz & Sons

“We were very dry through most of the growing season. We did receive some rain late in the season that will help with digging conditions and it appears to have helped some of the later season varieties to bulk up some.”

With recent heavy rain in the southern portion of the valley, the major challenge this season has been trying to get harvest started with the wet field conditions, Olsen said.

“Overall the volume should remain the same, as long as the harvest conditions improve and the planted acres are able to be dug,” she said. 

Folson said a major storm moved through the southern part of the valley, dropping 4-5 inches of rain in some areas.

“Muddy conditions will present challenges for harvesting the remaining acres,” he said.

As of late September, more than 80% of potatoes in the Red River Valley remained unharvested, Folson said. 

Volumes may be down slightly because of less acreage and unfavorable harvest conditions, but prices seem to be holding up.

“Volumes will be somewhat less than last year because of a cut back in acres and 2.5% less yield than last year,” Moquist said. “Quality looks excellent so far.” 

Olsen said NoKota Packers has seen a red potato acreage transition to yellow.

“Based on planting we expect to have fewer reds and slightly more yellows than last year,” Kreis said. “Red prices are very strong; yellow prices are weaker than last year.”

Potato prices are strong right now, Folson said, and should remain strong through the 2019 shipping season.

“Yields are down, and recent rainfall has eliminated acreage,” he said. 

“These conditions will lower the volume of fresh potatoes coming out of the valley this year and keep the market strong.”  

Moquist said growers should have a better understanding of what potato supply is available and how it will affect the market once the 2019 crop is harvested. 

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