© Eric McCarthy/Journal Pioneer
Potato harvesting in Mill River East
ORWELL — It won’t be “another big load of potatoes” this year like Stompin’ Tom liked to sing about, but the general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board expects a hearty crop nonetheless.
“It’s been a pretty dry summer overall and we’ve only had about a quarter of the normal rain this summer,’’ said Greg Donald. “However, the ways things are shaping up ... it’s not too bad a crop.”
Islanders might have dreaded the cooler temperatures and the deluge of rain last week, but Donald says it was welcomed on the roughly 85,000 acres of potatoes planted across the province.
At $250 million annually, potatoes are still the No. 1 agricultural crop, but the industry has lost almost one-third of its growers since 2007.
“August was too dry overall for potatoes,’’ said Donald. “That’s when the tubers start to bulk up and that dry weather would have impacted more on the short and mid-season varieties.”
It’s been so dry, it was almost a blight-free season except for a few cases that appeared about two weeks ago and prompted more vigilance in the fields. Late blight has no effect on consumption, but hurts the plant.
A cool, wet spring delayed planting this year and the GM said the overall lack of rain will likely reduce yields when the harvest begins in about four weeks.
“This past rain will really help the Russets bulk up,” he said. “It won’t be a big crop for 2013, but it will still be a good one.”