Cultivation/Production, North America, Trends, Weather/Climate

Unprecedented: Thousands of potato acres unharvested in Canada

A bumper Manitoba processing potato crop was stolen from farmers by bad harvest weather. “We ended up with about 5,200 acres left in the ground,” Dan Sawatzky, manager of the Keystone Potato Growers Association told the Keystone Agricultural Producers advisory council meeting here Nov. 12. “That’s unprecedented in the history of potatoes I guess in the last 50 years.”

There have been frozen potatoes and unharvested fields before, but 2018 was different, Sawatzky said later in an interview. “It has never been as widespread as this and never the percentage of acreage. It’s quite a setback.”

Based on potatoes harvested earlier this fall yields were expected to be the third highest on record, he said, which no doubt adds to the disappointment. But September rains delayed harvest and a hard frost hit Oct. 10 or 11.

“Not half the potato growers had their crop off at that stage,” Sawatzky told the KAP meeting. Frost went down into the soil three inches, damaging tubers. Some farmers continued to dig and store those potatoes. They could spoil, although so far they are holding up, he said.

“Most growers target an end harvest date of Oct. 1,” Sawatzky said in an interview. “There will be years when it drags on a little beyond that. This year just because of the wet conditions throughout September the growers were just not able to make progress.”

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