The Star-Herald

Lack of rain, heat impact potatoes

PRESQUE ISLE, Maine — Despite widely fluctuating temperatures and a lack of rain, the executive director of the Maine Potato Board said Monday that the state’s potato crop remains healthy.

Don Flannery, head of the Maine Potato Board, said the season started off well, with widespread planting of crops.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has estimated that Maine growers planted 52,000 acres of potatoes this year, which is up from 49,000 acres last year.

“The weather stayed cool for awhile,” said Flannery. “Lately, it has gotten quite hot. We have seen a big disparity in temperatures this summer. Now, the temperatures are supposed to be milder, so that should help the growers.”

By the end of June, southern Maine received 3.29 inches of rain below normal for the year, according to the National Weather Service in Gray. Portland usually typically has received 22.66 inches of rain for the year by that time, but by June, it had only received  19.37 inches.

The Caribou area experienced the third wettest April on record with 4.62 inches of precipitation, nearly 2 full inches above the average rainfall for the month. The above average rainfall also contributed to significant flooding in parts of Aroostook County.

Meteorologist Mark Bloomer of the NWS Caribou office said the average temperature for April was below average in northern Maine. May finished with above average temperatures and below normal precipitation, while June finished with below average temperatures and varied amounts of rainfall throughout the state.

Flannery said that the amount of precipitation remains a concern for growers.

“We have seen such a disparity across the state,” he said. “It has been much drier in some areas than in others. For instance, we heard one day last month that southern Maine was being pounded by rain, while up in the St. John Valley, barely a drizzle fell. So that has impacted the crop.”

Flannery said that growers “really would like to see a couple days of rain showers” to brighten up the crops.

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