Late plantings and spotty yields may hinder the overall size of the Red River Valley potato crop, but excellent quality could make up some of the difference.

“This year’s crop is looking to have the best quality that we have had in quite a while,” said Paul Dolan, president of Associated Potato Growers Inc., Grand Forks, N.D. “The color is great.”

Ted Kreis, marketing director for the Northern Plain Potato Growers Association, East Grand Forks, N.D., said Oct. 11 that about three-fourths of the area’s fresh potato crop had been harvested. He said yields, which typically average about 200 cwt per care, were as low as 110 cwt.

Keith Groven, salesman for Black Gold Farms, Grand Forks, N.D., said some of his company’s fields yielded more than 300 cwt. per acre.

“Yields are all over the board,” Groven said.

Kreis said some growers had to plant late because of wet conditions in the spring. Fields planted earlier produced better yields because plants were more mature when hot summer weather hit.

“The good news is a lot more potatoes will be graded No.1 this year,” he said. “We’ll ship about as much as we did last year when we had too many culls. We’ll have fewer potatoes but better potatoes.”

Kreis said an undetermined number of acres went unplanted due to wet conditions.

He estimated the Red River Valley would have about 25% less spuds than an average year. That’s good news for the growers who have managed to get their potatoes dug despite an abundance of fall rain.

Chris Bjorneby, salesman and partner for Lone Wolf Farms, Minto, N.D., said reds were selling for $15 per cwt. Lone Wolf wrapped up its harvest Oct. 2.

“I’m optimistic about pricing,” Bjorneby said. “Pricing is going to be firm where it’s at.

“It might even climb. Quality is excellent with great color,” he said.

Bryan Folson, general manager for Folson Farms, East Grand Forks, said he could see prices going as high as $20 per cwt., depending on the weather in the last half of October. Folson’s company still had more than half its crop in the ground because of wet conditions.

“We need sunshine and wind,” he said Oct. 16. “Hopefully temperatures don’t drop too severely. Usually, we’re done by late September or early October.”

“Harvest has been pretty good in between rains,” said Steve Tweeten, president and chief executive officer of NoKota Packers, Buxton, N.D. “We’re waiting for it to dry up again.”

O.C. Schultz & Sons Inc., Crytal, N.D., finished its harvest the week of Oct. 7.

President Dave Moquist said he sympathized with growers who have been harder hit by wet conditions.

“This late in the fall, it’s going to be a challenge to finish before it freezes,” he said. “We hope they get it done.”