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M A Y J U N E 2 0 1 6 POTATO GROWER 3 The Big Turn Around by Ted Kreis NPPGA Marketing and Communications Director One thing I have noticed since I started working at NPPGA 12 years ago is that every fresh potato shipping season is unique but the 2015-2016 shipping sea- son offered up more surprises than most. Planters got in the fields early then wait- ed for rain to kick start the crop which finally came in late May. This was a departure from recent springs that had been cold and wet causing planting delays seed rot and even re-planting as late as early July. The story was much the same in the fall as growers waited for and received rain to loosen the soil for digging. Harvest wrapped up early under near ideal conditions. Between planting and harvest rain seemed adequate with around 11 to 12 inches falling over most of the Red River Valley except areas near Grafton that received double or more that amount. The NDAWN automated weather station located 10 miles east of Grafton record- ed almost 24 inches of rain from May through August. There were reports of even higher amounts closer to Grafton. Standing water created isolated losses in those areas. Despite the adequate summer rain there were extended periods of dry weather in between rain storms. This created a problem that would rear its ugly head later. As late as August most growers and shippers were predicting below average yields based on test digs and probably some coffee shop talk that often includes a touch of farmer pessimism. Not everyone was pessimistic however. I talked with retired Potato Extension Agent Duane Sarge Preston periodical- ly through the late summer and he said There are going to be some big yields out there this year dont believe what you are hearing. He was right. With the exception of some isolated areas some of which I mentioned earlier yields were off the charts on some non-irrigated land. Some fields that typically produced 200 to 225 hundredweight cwt. per acre were producing well over 300 cwt. Yields topping 250 were common. One seed grower in the southern valley told us he had a field that topped 400 cwt. on dryland. The average yield for all pota- toes irrigated and non-irrigated in North Dakota shattered the old record by 15 cwt. per acre set just one year ear- lier. Along with the prosperity of big yields came a big problem. A problem that growers had seen before but never pro- liferated to this extent. Growth cracks. The wet-dry spells I spoke of earlier are suspected of causing the unusually high number of growth cracks in some cases afflicting more than 30 percent of the potatoes on a given field. The problem was wide-spread from the Canadian bor- der to the southern edge of the Red River Valley. Norland varieties seemed more susceptible than late storing varieties. Just about every fresh grower took a hit. Thankfully irrigated crops were not affected. Once the Red River Valley fresh crop was all counted for it topped 5.2 million cwt. over a million cwt. more spuds than the previous year. It would be the Folson Farms and other Red River Valley shippers are moving a lot of reds this spring.