Even though I work for an organization that has family roots that have been growing potatoes for over 100 years, I didn’t get into agriculture until later in life. I’ll never forget when I first became associated with the potato industry 15 years ago after having a conversation with a potato grower who was much my senior. He told me that raising potatoes isn’t that big of a deal. You put some seed in the ground, put a little sunlight on them, give them a little water and fertilizer and they do the rest on their own. What I’ve found out is that may well be the biggest understatement since astronaut Jim Lovell told Houston he had a problem.
The fact of the matter is farming has become incredibly high tech. Virtually all aspects of production have been studied and influenced by scientific study. (more…)
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. (more…)
There are many pesky concerns for Wisconsin vegetable growers every year—weather, growth problems, pests, water, market demand—but one pest problem, collectively known as foliar or leaf blights, is especially challenging. You have all battled these in your home gardens since they attack crops such as tomatoes, potatoes, carrots and cucumbers. These are the diseases that cause perfectly green plants to break out in brown spots, turn yellow and die prematurely in mid-season just when you are anticipating a delicious harvest. When the leaves begin to yellow and the brown spots appear, many home gardeners run to the garden center seeking a remedy to stave off the impending loss of their carefully nurtured plants only to find that once the disease starts to progress, there is no stopping it. (more…)
Imagine those delicious tomatoes you just planted. You can already taste that juicy and tangy first bite! But not so fast; it’s not quite that simple. It’s June and three of your plants are mysteriously missing – cutworms! What are they? Where did they come from? The rest of your plants are hidden by a thicket of weeds. ‘I didn’t plant those!’ you think to yourself. It’s July and we are back on track. But wait. Half the leaves have been torn off, the rest are covered in brown spots—hornworms? The news says it’s early blight – how, why? So it goes on into fall when you finally pick your few remaining treasures before some new plague devours them.
Fighting the critters that devour our plants is pretty much a given, whether you are tending a small kitchen garden or farming 1,000 acres. If you want your crop to succeed, then you need to know not only what your crop needs, but what makes those critters tick! (more…)
When you are enjoying a delicious baked potato, take a minute to reflect on where it came from. There is a pretty good chance it was grown in Wisconsin, which ranks 3rd in US potato production. However, the journey it took to become good enough to get to your plate is a fascinating one. (more…)