At Alsum Farms & Produce, our summer weather is finally here and the potatoes are growing fast and are a beautiful thing to see. The reds, whites, and goldens are getting close to row closure and they have started to “hook,” which means they are forming a tuber under the hill. We are seeing marble-sized tubers already and they will be growing fast. Moisture management is critical at this time and we were blessed with a nice rain again this week. The cold wet spring was a problem for the seed pieces, but moisture at this time is a positive as long as we don’t get several inches at one time. We are placing tensiometers in our fields this week to help with monitoring soil moisture. This is one of many ways that we try to make sure we are using best practices to conserve and properly manage our water usage.
Our pest scout position is another valuable tool in our IPM and best practices for potato growing. Our pest scout’s insight on crop growth and minimizing the use of crop protectants has been invaluable over the years and he is part of our team approach to growing potatoes. He walks every field every week following patterns that give us insight into weeds, insects, and diseases as they develop. We try to anticipate when they reach a threshold that requires either a crop protectant application or other ways to manage the crop for optimum yield and quality. Pest scouting has allowed us to reduce the amount of crop protectants used and improve the health of our potato crop. In addition, we use the weekly bulletins from the UW Extension to monitor growing degree days and severity values for the risk of blights, insects, and other challenges. One new addition this year is we added our own weather station in one of our fields.
Alsum Farms & Produce is located in the Wisconsin River Valley; we enjoy the beauty of the river and the valley. We also enjoy the variety of wildlife we see from deer and turkey to sand hill cranes and butterflies. Part of the Alsum commitment to stewardship and servant leadership is our participation in the Wisconsin Healthy Grown project. As part of this commitment, we have set aside several parcels of land to be part of a habitat reserve for wildlife. This has been a great learning experience to learn about native species and best practices to restore habitat. I have really enjoyed the collaboration with the International Crane Foundation and their help with this project. I will admit that during harvest, the damage caused by the sand hill cranes does get a little frustrating, but we are blessed to live in a beautiful state with such a variety of wildlife.