County Ag Report: Weather will play major role for this year's potato crop

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine - It may not be too late for crops that went in late to get to where they should be by harvest time. In this week's County Ag Report, Kathy McCarty speaks with a potato specialist who says it all depends on the weather.

This planting season has started slowly for many farmers, with temperatures remaining below average, deep into June. Steve Johnson, a potato specialist with the University of Maine Cooperative Extension, says it's not just Aroostook experiencing this, many other states are experiencing the same conditions.

"This is mirrored in Pennsylvania, and Maryland, and in Massachusetts - places where I'm getting disease samples and such coming in from that they are also, as well as New York and Long Island. They're behind a little bit."

Crops could catch up, says Johnson, given the right amount of rainfall and some warmth, as well.

"We could be right where we need to be quite soon, but the next 30 days could be quite - quite important to get good growing conditions and warm weather."

The delayed planting of potatoes isn't expected to have an impact on harvest, but the weather could.

"We hope we get it in before the cold weather comes in and affects the color of the potatoes, or the storability of them, if we get snow or frost onto them. So I expect the harvest to be about the same time, 'cause that's - that's more weather-dependent."

This year's delay may actually have a positive side to it.

"Some of the best results as far as the seed growers and virus levels have been when they delayed planting for a couple weeks and missed the first flush of aphids that come through. So that may be a blessing for this year as well too."

While potatoes are typically about eight inches tall this time of year, Johnson says with proper conditions, plants could catch up. He says it's going to be a short growing season, farmers just need to get the potatoes to grow fast.