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Early 'closing in the rows' good sign for P.E.I. potato crop

In some Prince Edward Island potato fields the rows are already closing over, shading the soil and keeping in moisture. (Courteys: Kevin Yarr / CBC)

Timely rains and continued warm weather has Prince Edward Island's potato crop a week to 10 days ahead of schedule, says the P.E.I. Potato Board. It's a welcome change following two dry seasons, said Ryan Barrett, the board's lead for research and agronomy.

Ryan Barrett:
"Particularly last year, we had significantly below average rainfall in May and June, which meant that we were off to a dry start, and then didn't get a lot of rain in July and August as well. The crop really suffered."
Compared to mid-July of last year, he said, the difference is easy to see in some potato fields.

Ryan Barrett:
"We're seeing more of the earlier planted potatoes that are closing in the rows, I guess, as we would say in our language. The plants on either side of the rows are now touching each other."
When the rows close in, the entire field is shaded. The leaves are getting the sunshine they need, but it will stay moist and cool around the roots. There's less evaporation, so the plants need less rain as the summer progresses.