Potato Production in USA

"put in simple terms"

The Badger Common'Tater is the Wisconsin Potato Industry publication that provides us with current data on the crop yields in Wisconsin, compared to other States.

On this web page I'm planning to recap the data and hopefully remember to keep it updated.

Wisconsin in the top 4 States - 3rd Top Producer
The comparative data shows that about 90% of potato is planted for Fall harvest, with the balance for Spring, Summer, and Winter [Wisconsin's climate doesn't fit for Winter and Spring, while Summer harvest of early potato for table use is likely quite small].

The top producer in the USA is Idaho with almost 350,000 acres planted in 2012, which is equal to about the size of Wisconsin's Walworth County [576 sq miles = 368k acres], second is Washington with 135,000 acres and third is North Dakota with 84,000 acres, which is equal to about half the size of Kenosha County. Wisconsin is the fourth State with 63,000 acres [that is approximately the size of a circle with a 5 mile radius - happens to be the territory field bees could cover from a hive placed in the center].

The 4 top States have a combined total of 656,000 acres, which is equal to the size of Walworth, Kenosha and Racine Counties - minus 100k acres. The total yield in the top 4 States in 2012 topped 29.5 billion pounds, or almost 3/4 of the 42 billion pounds produced for fall harvest in the U.S. in 2012.

Yield per acre ranks Wisconsin 3rd

Who knows why yields per acre differ so much from year to year in different states?

Here are the stats for Wisconsin in cwt [1 hundredweight, equals 100 pounds]

2009 - 460 cwt, 2010 - 410 cwt, 2011 - 415 cwt, 2012 - 455 cwt

In 2010 I first published this web page with the following comment, as I thought that higher temperatures would adversely affect yields.

In 2009 the total production for the 4 States was 27.8 billion pounds - a loss of 13.5% of potato harvested in 2010 (with a reduction of 35,000 acres planted or 6%) which is explained by the unfavorable weather for potato production. Main culprit are high temperature while the tubers are growing - smaller tubers = smaller yields.

Climate change at work? It will be interesting to follow the future evolution.

In 2012 we had the highest average temps in Wisconsin in the last 100 years, yet the yields in 2012 were much higher compared to 2010. Clearly high yields can be maintained despite high average soil temperatures, even during periods of drought. Obviously irrigation compensates for lack of rain fall.

What are the primary factors for higher yields?
The comparative data shows yield differences between 245 and 610 cwt per acre.

Farmers are harvesting between 24,500 and 61,000 pounds of potato per acre (State average). Some farmers may have much higher yields, and some much lower.

How is it possible to have such a large difference? Likely the quality of soil and fertilizers are not very different. The one factor that farmers cannot change is length of daylight. Longer days [actually shorter nights] affect yields. And that explains why the top producers are all Northern States.

The variable may just be water? Rain falls vs. availability of ground water for irrigation? Does that explain why North Dakota only yields an average of 300 cwt in 2012, up from 245 cwt in 2011? A whopping 50% less than Wisconsin!

While Washington State peaked at 610 cwt in 2011, the average for the whole of the USA in 2012 came in at 426 cwt.

Idaho, is historically the top producer with an average in 2012 of 416 cwt, except for the 10 desert counties of Southwest Idaho, where the average yield of 2012 came in at 520 cwt, down from 540 cwt in 2011 and 550 cwt in 2010. Perhaps an other indication that high soil temperatures is not the most important factor to increase harvest yields - availability of water for irrigation may well be the most important factor. Is water being used with sustainable methods?

Interesting case study [2010 data:]
The Badger Common'Tater reports data compiled by State, except for the State of Idaho, where 10 Southwest Counties are reported separately. Why?

Well, the answer may be for the exceptionally high yield per acre of 550 cwt in 2010 vs. 500 in 2009 - an increase of 10% when the National average had a loss of 4%.

The top 5 producers of Idaho are in the desert, between Elmore County and Cassia County. Very high yields are obtained with cultivation in circles with high levels of fertilizer application. The growth in circles is due to a center pivot sprayer used for irrigation and chemical applications. Take a Google Satellite look.

Which varieties are the most produced? Why Russet?
More than 90% of Fall harvest potato grown in the U.S. are used for fries and chips - the most unhealty cooking choices. Russet tubers perform best in frying and baking.

2010 data:

Norland is the most popular non-Russet and accounts for 3.2%, followed by Red LaSoda with 0.6%, Red Pontiac at 0.2% and Sangre at 0.1%. While in the yellow table potato Yukon Gold comes in at 1%, Bintje at 0.2%.

2012 data:

Norland is the most popular non-Russet and accounts for 3.1%, followed by Red LaSoda with 0.3%, Red Pontiac at 0.1%. While in the yellow table potato Yukon Gold dropped to 0.8%, and Bintje to 0.1% - new to the list Keuka Gold at 0.1%. The most popular Blue potato finally appeared listed at 0.1% as All Blue [aka many synonyms].

This data clearly shows that America prefers to eat potato as fries and chips, rather than cooking them at home. Poaching potato in a vegetable soup is the best - always select tubers that have been grown without chemicals, so you can eat them with the skins. Read more about the health benefits of potato.

Page updated: December, 2012

Wanted: Potato Gardeners

If you'd like to participate with the Kenosha Potato Project - here are your options:

  • If you live in Southeastern Wisconsin - please email me at seedsaver@curzio.com
  • If you live somewhere else in the USA or Canada - are you a member of Seed Saver Exchange? We have a few gardener who participate with the Kenosha Potato Project within the Seed Saver Exchange.
  • We have members of our Global Potato Network in Europe and are always pleased to cooperate with any gardener / farmer. Sending seed abroad is restricted or difficult ... but we may find ways to cooperate.

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