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Opinion: What’s behind the drop in acres in potatoes in the US?

USDA released its report on the number of potato acres planted in 2020. Potato growers planted only 921,000 acres in 2020, more than 47,000 acres fewer than in 2019 and 105,000 acres fewer than in 2018, according to an article published by Carol Miller in Growing Produce recently. We republish her article here with permission.

It’s the lowest number of acres recorded by USDA in at least 100 years, Carol writes. Both processing and fresh markets are down. To better understand what’s behind the drop, American Vegetable Grower asked Washington State University’s potato specialist, Carrie Wohleb, what’s behind the trend.

Contracts down sharply

Processing potatoes, which Washington growers tend to grow, depends heavily on trade, and the trade wars of the past two years have taken their toll.

“There are fewer planted acres of potatoes throughout the Pacific Northwest due to contract reductions in processed potato,” Wohleb says. “There were several farms that planted before the contract cuts, some that did not plant as many acres due to cuts, and some that planted anyways.”

Idaho, the leading potato producing state, acres planted is at its lowest for some time, the Idaho Farm Bureau reports. That state’s drop can be traced to the food service sector shutting down, the ID Farm Bureau says.

But the trade wars have been going on even longer than the pandemic-linked shut down.

“Since the vast majority of potatoes in Washington are grown for processing, I would not be surprised if the acreage cuts here are greater than in Idaho that dedicates a higher proportion of their crop to fresh pack, or dual purpose,” Wohleb says.

Yield per acre normal to strong

There is some good news, however. Growing conditions in 2020 have been strong, Wohleb says.

“The report I’ve had from growers is that the Washington crop is on track for good yields,” she says. “The weather has been pretty good for potatoes. We had a nice spring and a slow buildup to the July heat. It was very hot in mid to late July, which was stressful for the crop, but nothing that we aren’t used to seeing. Late heat We seem to weather the late heat better than earlier heat (probably something to do with acclimation and a matter for the plant physiologists to explain.”

Source: Growing Produce

Carol Miller


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Author: Carol Miller

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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