Potato harvest

Potatoes are harvested in the Pleasant Valley area northwest of American Falls. Area farmers are concerned about their unharvested potato fields, with extreme cold in the forecast for Wednesday and Thursday nights.

Rexburg farmer Lynn Wilcox dug potatoes throughout Tuesday night and into Wednesday morning, with extreme cold weather coming that threatened any potato acres left unharvested.

While Wilcox was getting some much-deserved rest late Wednesday morning, his wife said many of their fields still hadn't been dug. As was the case with farmers throughout East Idaho, the clock was running out, and she said they could only hope for the best.

As of the publication deadline for Farm & Ranch on Wednesday, the National Weather Service warned of low temperatures range from 12 degrees in the Rexburg area to 16 degrees in the Blackfoot area Wednesday night and from 13 degrees in the Rexburg area to 18 degrees in the Blackfoot area on Thursday night. Area farmers feared those low temperatures would spell trouble for any potatoes remaining in fields.

Snow showers in the forecast only added to their concerns.

“There are crews digging potatoes now as rapidly and as fast as they can to get them dug and pulled out of the ground before that big bunch of weather hits tomorrow,” Lance Ellis, a University of Idaho Extension educator for Fremont County, said.

Ellis says that a combination of late planting season combined with cooler weather and frost slowed down the harvest. Ellis has met with Fremont County farmers and has noted some stress in the air.

“Farmers don’t panic too much,” Ellis said, prior to the arrival of the cold weather. “They are working very, very hard to try and get as much done as they possibly can. That’s all you can do. Panicking is not going to solve anything. A lot of them are hoping they can either get them dug (or) that this winter storm will come through (and won’t) damage the potatoes too badly. It would be best if they all could get the potatoes dug and in the cellars.”

Jon Hogge, area cereals educator for the University of Idaho Extension, added: “The problem that this creates is that, even though the potatoes are down in the soil, those cold temperatures are dropping down into the teens. That can actually freeze the potato down into the soil, and they won’t be any good to dig."