A week of heavy rains may have seriously damaged north Florida’s potato harvest.

 

Potato growers report sustaining $45 million in damage from flooding after the region received up to 27 inches of rain.

David Dinkins, a University of Florida St. Johns County extension director in St. Augustine, Fla., said early estimates show the rain-soaked area suffered significant damage.

Floods soak Florida potato fields
                  Courtesy St. Johns Co. Extension office



Growers harvest potatoes near Palatka, Fla. Flooding may have caused significant damage to this season's north Florida potato harvest.

Dinkins, who rode through the fields, called damage significant.

“Damage is variable, but a lot of farmers hadn’t started digging yet, particularly the chip growers, while others may have dug 20-30%,” he said May 22. “Overall, we have at least 70% of the acreage that hasn’t been harvested. The jury is still out on whether those potatoes would be marketable. But, with the rainfall we’ve received, those potatoes are sitting in water for at least 24 hours, sometimes longer. It’s a dire situation.”

About half of the tri-county north Florida growing region of St. Johns, Putnam and Flagler counties’ 18,000 acres, concentrated in the Hastings, Fla., and Palatka, Fla., areas, ships fresh.

Harvesting of its red and white potatoes normally starts in early May and runs through mid-June.