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Potato Harvest Still on Track Despite Cold Start to September


Frosty nights and intense rain can be detrimental to potato harvests.

The Northwoods is experiencing record low high temperatures for September and there’s a frost advisory for part of the region Wednesday night.

“No one is panicking. I think everything is pretty on schedule,” said Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association Executive Director Tamas Houlihan.

Houlihan said harvest is wrapping up for potato farmers in central Wisconsin. It’s just starting for farmers in the northern part of the state.

“The ground is heavier up north. It’s more of silt loam and so when they do get have inch or inch of rain they may have to wait a couple days before the fields are dry enough to go back in a continue harvesting,” said Houlihan.

As for the cooler temperatures, Houlihan said potatoes can hold up to a few nights in the 30s.

“Even below 32, as long as its not into the 20s, the crop will be fine. Especially if it’s only a few hours where it dips into the low 30s, the growers really don’t get too concerned about that,” said Houlihan. ”Everything I’ve seen says temperatures are still going to be in the 40s and 50s at night for the next few weeks. So we do expect to have pretty good harvest conditions as we move through September.”

Overall, this growing season has been good for farmers.

Houlihan says they’re not expecting a bumper crop but it should still be a good yield. That is desperately needed after the last two years of poor crops across the region.

“There were massive losses in 2018. I think there were some farms who really were on the brink bankruptcy. We’ve been fortunate in Wisconsin not to have that happen very often. I think that those farms that were teetering on the brink were able to survive 2019, but they really need a good 2020. They need a normal harvest,” said Houlihan.

The good news is demand for potatoes is steady and the price is strong.

Now farmers are just hoping for mild temperatures and less rain to make it through harvest.

Katie Thoresen is WXPR's News Director/Vice President.
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