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Wada Farms potatoes and onions to start a week to 10 days later than last year

Weather factors around spring planting time have caused a delay in the start of the 2019 harvest for potatoes in eastern Idaho, according to Kevin Stanger, president of Wada Farms Marketing Group in Idaho Falls, ID.

“I’m hearing that is fairly prevalent” among potato shippers in Idaho, Stanger told The Produce News July 16. “I’m not saying everybody, but a lot of shippers out here.”

Stanger said he expects Wada Farms to begin shipping new crop potatoes from some of the earlier fields around Aug. 7 and to be in full production by the week of Aug.19, about a week to 10 days later than last year.

01-Wada---Kevin-StangerKevin StangerThe company also expects a slightly later start this year for colored potatoes and for onions compared to 2018.

The Northwest is “is our key area” for russet potatoes, red and yellow potatoes, and onions, both conventional and organic, Stanger said. Most of Wada Farms’ potatoes are grown in Idaho, and the onions are grown in Idaho, Oregon and Washington.

Outside of the Northwest, Wada Farms also ships potatoes from Colorado where the company works with a couple of major shippers as well as several smaller copackers. Also, there are times of the year when the company will source colored potatoes from other areas. But “the majority of our products … are grown right here in the Northwest,” he said.

Due to the later start this year, Stanger said, “we have had to slow down just a little bit” in packing and shipping the remainder of the 2018 potato crop “to be sure that our supplies will extend until the new crop starts.” That is true of “not only us but others in the state” as well, he said. Late spring frost and some other issues “put the crop a little behind, so we are having to run a little slower at a lot of our facilities” and stretch the storage crop out until the 2019 harvest starts.

He expects some overlap. Once the harvest starts, “I am going to have a couple of weeks of some old and new crop, and by the third or fourth week of August, it will be all new crop.”

The same weather issues are likely to affect yields, Stanger said. “From early indications, it looks like the crop is slightly down in Idaho” compared to last year because of the spring frost.

So far, “the crop looks good,” he said. “All of the test digs that we have seen” show that the crop is coming along nicely. But it will be over the next few weeks that the potatoes will “really start bulking up.”

Onions in Idaho, Oregon and Washington are also “a little behind,” Stanger said, but quality, in general, “looks very good.”

By mid-August, the onions should be coming on, and the packing houses should be “up and going,” he said.