PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Many Aroostook County schools are now closed for potato harvest recess and farm machinery and crews are in the field.
According to Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board, Monday was the “unofficial” start of the annual potato harvest.
“There’s been people harvesting for the last couple of weeks to go into processing plants direct out of the field, so some have been in the field already,” he said in a phone interview last Thursday. “This week there are more people getting started every day.
“Come Monday (Sept. 22), I think everybody in the potato business is going to be in the field,” Flannery said. “There’s no official start date, but that’s the first day that schools are closed for harvest, and it’s also the first day of the annual ‘Potato Picker’s Special.’”
“Potato Picker’s Special” airs from 5-6 a.m. on WAGM through Oct. 10, which Flannery said is perceived as the end of the potato harvest.
“For years and years and years, everybody said you shoot to be done Oct. 10,” he said, “and that’s how it happens to work this year with ‘Picker’s.’ The way the industry is today, you can dig a lot of potatoes in the course of a day if you have good weather. Oct. 10 is usually when people are wrapping up, but it’s all weather dependent.”
Flannery anticipates a good yield this year.
“I would expect from what’s been harvested early — and what people have been sampling — that we’ll probably have an average or maybe a little above average yield,” he said. “Quality is very good from what everybody’s seen so far, so we expect we’re going to put a quality crop in the warehouse, which would lead you to believe you’d take a quality crop out of the warehouse. We’ll see.
“If it hadn’t been quite so dry in August as it was, yields probably would have been a little bigger than they are going to be,” said Flannery. “We won’t know that for sure until we harvest them, but I think if we had gotten a little rain in August, we probably would have had a slightly bigger yield.”
While there were sporadic reports of late blight found in some County fields, Flannery said it didn’t become a significant problem.
“So far what we saw for late blight has been limited and was found early and taken care of,” he said. “It doesn’t appear late blight has become an issue.”
Flannery said 55,000 acres of potatoes were planted this year in Maine.