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July 11, 2018

Maine growers plant bumper potato crop, despite weather concerns

Maine's 2018 potato crop appears off to a good start, but weather fluctuations may pose concern for growers.

The County newspaper reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimated that Maine growers planted 52,000 acres of potatoes this year, up from 49,000 acres last year and 46,500 in 2016. However, dry spells in northern Maine could affect the maturing spuds, says Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board.

Growers "really would like to see a couple days of rain showers," Flannery said.

"We have seen such a disparity across the state. 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."

Precipitation in June was only 50% to 90% of the normal amount for most of the area from the Katahdin region to the St. John valley, according to the National Weather Service website.

In addition, the region has experienced high temperatures.

"The weather stayed cool for a while," 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."

The regional outlook for July calls for an increased chance of above-average temperatures and below-average precipitation, according to the NWS.

Maine produces about 5% of the country's potatoes, the sixth-most of any state, according to the Maine Potato Board.

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