Potato yields expected to be down after a summer with record heat

Test digs show bad signs
Published: Aug. 28, 2021 at 2:00 PM MDT|Updated: Aug. 28, 2021 at 2:08 PM MDT
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TWIN FALLS, Idaho (KMVT/KSVT) — Heat and dryness have been the story of the summer this year in southern Idaho. With record heat, crops — including Idaho’s most famous crop — have seen effects in numerous ways.

“I’m not saying that Idaho won’t have any of the bigger potatoes they’re famous for,” says Sean Ellis, a spokesman for the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation. “There’s just not going to be as many this year.”

While some crops may do well in warm and dry summers, like corn, others, unfortunately, don’t do so well.

“The heat has had a real impact on the potatoes this year,” says Ellis. “It’s no big secret that Idaho has had a serious drought this year.”

But despite farmers having more than adequate water rights to mitigate the drought, it hasn’t been enough.

“I’ve talked to some guys who just couldn’t get their pivots around fast enough because of the heat,” says Ellis.

According to the USDA, Idaho farmers planted 315,000 acres of potatoes this year, which is up 5% from 2020. However, the yields aren’t looking too promising. From 2017-2019, average yields ranged between 425 and 450 bushels per acre. Thanks to the heat this summer, yields are expected to take a hit.

“I’ve never seen anything like this year as far as global weather goes,” says Jeff Bragg, a local farmer. “Looking at the global supply regions that work unilaterally, it’s very unusual.”

As a word of advice, Bragg recommends farmers reimagine their soil by using less water now and saving groundwater for next year.

“Basically, we really can’t bank on what’s going to happen this fall, winter, or spring,” says Bragg. “We’ve got to take care of our soil as if it’s a reservoir too.”

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