Washington potato growers struggling to keep up with demand

It's not just the weather that makes this year's potato crop in Washington promising. Chris Voigt also credited the great care and detailed management by the Washington potato growers for the expected high yields and good quality
(Courtesy: Washington State Potato Commission)

The Washington State Potato Commission, headquartered in Moses Lake, Washington, has been pleasantly surprised by the weather and its impact on this year’s potato crop in the state.

Chris Voigt, Washington State Potato Commission’s executive director:

“It started out cooler than normal but has progressed into perfect potato growing weather.”

“Potatoes love warm days and cool nights. It has been perfect with the recent exception of a few hot days. We’re expecting excellent quality because of this weather.”
But it's not just the weather. Chris Voigt also credited the Washington potato growers:

“They perform weekly petiole and soil samples to ensure plants are getting the perfect amount of nutrition, constant soil moisture monitoring, setting and monitoring pest traps and making constant adjustments to account for changes in weather and the growth stages of the plant.”

“Our growers are all about efficiencies, and micromanaging the crop in order to get the quality and volume our customers need.”
Matt Harris, Washington State Potato Commission’s director of government affairs, noted export markets are growing 6-7 percent each year and the industry is struggling to keep up with demand:

“We’ve simply run out of ground suitable for growing potatoes.”

“We either need to figure out a way to deliver more surface water to dryland or we need to focus on increasing yields without sacrificing quality. And we’re working on both.”

“We’re supporting efforts to get Columbia River water to some wells that are going dry and are launching a new soil health initiative that will hopefully increase yields and quality.”
One big concern of the commission is soil health and how it can manage potato soils to reduce inputs while maintaining and even increasing yield and quality.

Matthew Blua, director of community outreach at the Washington State Potato Commission:

“On a science level, we are just now able to address questions regarding soil biology and ecology, the final frontier of agriculture, and attempt to manipulate it.”

“Early focus in this area will be on cover crops, crop rotations, and augmenting antagonistic microbials, all designed to decrease soil-borne pathogens and pestiferous nematodes.”