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Wisconsin potato production reported on solid ground

The University of Wisconsin-Madison provided a snapshot of the state's potato production in its Vegetable Crop Update issued Aug. 16. "Harvest season has begun for many growers harvesting chipping and processing potatoes, and of course fresh potatoes of all types direct to the processing plants or packingsheds," wrote Professor A.J. Bussan of the Department of Horticulture. "Yields appear to be quite good across the state. But there are some quality issues that have begun to raise concerns. Determinate crops, including Norkotah, are beginning to mature. But early samples suggest the yields are good."

UWM provided some data for Norkotah CO8, Norkotah TX 296 and Goldrush -- all grown for the fresh market -- as well as the Snowden chipping potato. "Potato bulking has been in the linear growth phase since at least June 19," the report stated. "It would appear that individual plants are increasing per plant tuber yield by [three quarters] to one ounce per day over the month of July."

The report also provided some insights about Norkotah and Snowden tuber sets. "Tuber set is quite high with about nine to 10 harvested tubers perCropOverviewAccording to the University of Wisconsin, potato yields appear to be good across the state. Weather conditions have generally been favorable, and tubers were bulking up in a normal manner in August. (Photo courtesy of the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association Inc.) plant for [Norkotah] CO8 and nine to 11 harvested tubers per plant for Snowden. Tuber size distribution indicates the crop is still quite small with about 75 percent of CO8 tubers still less than six ounces in size and 50 percent of Snowden less than two inches in diameter as of Aug. 6."

Crop quality issues were also addressed by Professor Bussan. "Crop quality concerns do exist across the state, and we have a long way to go to harvest conditions for storage," he wrote. "Warm temperatures may have triggered heat necrosis back when tubers were less than 1.5 centimeters in diameter. Hot soils with declining vines might dramatically increase respiration rates in the hills causing black heart. Furthermore, insect damage [such as wire worm] has been seen that is also triggering defects."

According to Amanda Gevens, assistant professor and extension vegetable plant pathologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, some early potato blight was noted at the beginning of August. According to Professor Gevens, much of Wisconsin has entered a period of rainy weather, and temperatures are characterized "by cool nights and moderate summer days. This cooler, wet weather is favorable for late blight," she wrote.

On Aug. 20, the National Agricultural Statistics Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture said that vine killing had been reported in Oneida County, and early red varieties were being dug.

In its 2011 Annual Report, Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Growers Association Inc. provided some insights about the 2011 vegetable production season. "The 2011 production cycle was not without its challenges," said Executive Director Duane Maatz. "Yet our industry has had many accomplishments during the past year." According to Mr. Maatz, the association recognized a more business-friendly attitude in working with the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources and the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture Trade & Consumer Protection.

"As part of a budget agreement, we were able to keep potatoes, corn and peas on the school lunch menu," he continued. "I am happy to announce that we have retired the debt on the Wisconsin Potato & Vegetable Storage Research Facility, located at the Hancock Agricultural Research Station."

The association continues to work to improve the University of Wisconsin Potato Breeding Program. "Through SpudPro, we are continuing virus cleanup in our advanced breeding program clones," he went on to say. "We have recently named and released two additional new varieties and intend to work to promote these new varieties to the industry. We have moved four chipping clones forward in the past two years, and we now need to focus on our advanced materials related to the fresh market."

According to the annual report, Wisconsin ranked No. 4 in the nation for potato production during 2011 with an estimated 22.32 million hundredweight of potatoes. Wisconsin potato growers harvested 62,000 acres and had an average yield of 360 hundredweight per acre.