North America, Production/Agronomy

San Luis Valley potato growers optimistic for harvest

Despite 2020 being a difficult year in many respects, San Luis Valley potato growers have been able to raise a very good looking crop this season. The warmer than normal weather being one of the reasons for the healthy fields, Rebecca Copley reports for the Monte Vista Journal.

“It’s been dry but irrigation supplies have held up pretty well. We did have a frost, it affected a few fields the first of July but I think the impact has been somewhat minimal,” said James Ehrlich who is the Executive Director for the Colorado Potato Administration Committee.

Ehrlich shared that they are hoping for a good yield this year but it will depend on how well the harvest weather corporates. “If we get a bunch of rain or inclement weather at the wrong time it could affect us but it’s looking really good,” commented Ehrlich.

COVID-19 has also been affecting potato growers warehouses in the Valley. “When it (COVID-19) first hit we had a huge demand, and the warehouses had to work a lot of extra hours. There was a large increase in shipments. Probably about a 30 percent increase in shipments in March and April. But we got through that, without any sickness. But then I think after people got tired of being at home too much in May we had an outbreak at a couple of the warehouses. An outbreak is just two cases or more,” said Ehrlich.

“It’s been hard to keep the employees in the warehouses healthy and safe. But we’re trying our best to do that. Following CDC guidelines and that’s all we can do. We can’t control what they do when they go home.”

Ehrlich shared that this harvest season is also going to present similar challenges. Making sure that harvest crews have the right protective equipment, are maintaining social distancing, and are washing their hands to prevent spreading the virus. The Colorado Department of Agriculture has recently put out some guidelines that the state has issued.

As farmers get ready to head into harvest Ehrlich shared that it is hopeful. “I think potato farmers have had good prices and demand. People are eating at home. All these signs are good for us. Our crops should be better than last year for sure. It would really surprise me if it wasn’t. Prices are strong. I think we’re set for a pretty good year,” said Ehrlich.

Source: Read the full story in the Monte Vista Journal here
Photo by Trey Spaulding. Potato fields in full bloom north of Monte Vista.

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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