Manitoba potato harvest stalled due to rain, snow
By Stephanie Gordon
Potato harvesting in Manitoba has stalled due to continued rains and now snow, according to the latest report from Manitoba Potato Weather Network.
As of Oct. 22, only 63 per cent of potatoes have been harvested. This number lags behind the three-year provincial average of 99 per cent for the third/fourth week of October.
The precipitation, which includes a mix of rain and snow, was “extensive” across the province in the first two weeks of October, according to Vikram Bisht, potato and horticultural crops specialist with Manitoba Agriculture. Some areas were affected more than others. Regions such as Carberry, Glenboro, Shilo and Treherne significantly strayed from their average rainfall expected for the season as much as 50 per cent.
Not much harvest progress has been made, due to rain and heavy snowfall, in what Bisht says is a “record precipitation year for October.” Over the Thanksgiving long weekend (Oct. 10-14), snow blanketed many regions of Manitoba. Some areas, such as Carberry, Morden and Holland, reported as much as 64 to 74 cm of snow had accumulated in the fields.
A report of 90 cm of total snowfall was reported at a CoCoRaHS site (Community Cooperative Rain, Hail and Snow Network) south of Morden near the North Dakota border.
As if the snow wasn’t enough to deal with, many regions also reported power outages which affected farm operations. As of Oct. 22, 2019 only 50 percent of the RM of Grahamdale has power, with 90 per cent power in the remaining hard hit municipalities of the Interlake region.
The melting snow brought its own set of issues when ditches, creeks and rivers temporarily swelled to capacity because of runoff. The runoff also made the fields too wet to run equipment. Some producers have opted to wait it out instead of rutting the field for the sake of progress. The soil moisture profiles to 30 and 120 cm indicate that more areas have become wetter, as compared to earlier in October, Bisht added.
Overnight temperatures dipped below freezing at all the potato area weather stations. The average minimum temperature hovers around -1.9 C for the province, with some areas such as Bagot, Man. reaching as low as – 3.3 C overnight.
Other provinces and states that produce potatoes are also having challenging harvest conditions. Alberta, New Brunswick, and P.E.I. have also not completely finished harvesting their potato crops as of Oct. 18, when Manitoba’s crop report was published. In the U.S., Michigan’s potato harvest was 70 per cent complete by Oct. 16, 2019. Wisconsin, Minnesota, North Dakota also have unfinished potato harvests. Idaho had 15 to 20 per cent crop yet to harvest as of Oct. 9, 2019; but recent snow and freezing conditions are threatening the crop.