Cool weather challenging PEI potato growers

(Ryan Barrett/Twitter)

Cool, below normal temperatures in Prince Edward Island have set back the potato harvest for some producers. Ryan Barrett, lead agronomist with the PEI Potato Board says as of Friday, May 25, roughly five to six per cent of the spuds were in the ground.

“We are a little bit behind schedule. Normally our main crop of potatoes start to go in around the 10th to 18th of May, but we’re at least a week behind schedule,” he says.

“There are a number of potatoes in the ground, there’s some people that started planting early acres in April which is pretty normal in the sandier regions of eastern PEI; but, we probably only have four to five thousand acres planted in the province.”

Barrett attributes the set back to cool and wet conditions; however, on the bright side, there hasn’t been much frost.

With the forecast improving for this week, Barrett is hopeful farmers will be out planting as most had their seed already cut.

“Definitely not in panic mode by any means. We had a slow spring last year as well so it’s not unrealistic or unreasonable that it happens, but people are just hoping for some better weather to cooperate in the next week or two.”

Speaking of last year, some producers might be dealing with volunteers, and cull piles of potatoes. Barrett recommends a good way to manage the crop that might have been left behind is to let it decompose, and to think about changing rotations. By growing something like sorghum sudangrass, ryegrass, forage pearl millet, and any direct seeded grass species/mixture, it will help rejuvenate the soil, and fight against volunteers a bit better than a typical herbicide would.

“Many of the herbicides don’t work ideally with potatoes, (as the) tuber is such a large piece that has a lot of reserves, that even if foliage gets killed, it has a big reserves to grow from again,” he explains.

Learn more about managing volunteer potatoes, and best practises for cutting and handling seed in the interview below with RealAgriculture’s Jessika Guse and PEI Potato Board’s Ryan Barrett below.