Potato farmers covering plants with frost proofing, preparing for cold

Potato farmers covering plants

OKEECHOBEE, Fla. - Farmers out by Lake Okeechobee are hoping Mother Nature won't strike twice this week.

400 acres of potatoes are grown at Campbell Farms.

Last weekend, the mercury dropped to 27 degrees and some of the leaves on the plants were damaged.

Fortunately, those plants were more mature and can still be harvested. But other plants have been in the ground a month and they still need more time to grow.

Dave St. Pierre is better known as "Tater Dave".  He drives all 400 acres at Campbell Farms every day. He digs through a row and pulls out some beautiful red potatoes. They're a little smaller than he would like.

"These would make bigger potatoes than this if we had more time on 'em," said St. Pierre.

He spent the past Sunday  frost proofing the plants.

Still there was damage.

"Potatoes are pretty good. They can get down to 30 degrees and come out of it without much damage. But when you get below 30, they'll start showing some wear," said St. Pierre.

Now, could the young spuds in his fields be duds before their time?

St. Pierre says it all depends on when the cold hits.

The younger plants at 35 days might be able to survive.

"65 days is a critical time. They're starting to bulk up under the ground a little bit, the tubers are minimum size.  We want maximum size," added St. Pierre.

St. Pierre said he's got two things working for him. The first is the wind. It's still blowing a little bit so hopefully that will prevent frost from forming on the leaves.

The second, a rain shower blew through Okeechobee Tuesday afternoon. That fills up irrigation ditches which allows water to seep to all of the neighboring plants, allowing them to stay warmer at the base.

St. Pierre says every year the crop is different. Last year, he had no problems with the crop from the cold but the year before, they lost about 40-percent because of cold temperatures.

 

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