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Potatoes produced in Central Oregon are cultivated for seed potatoes, also known as tubers. Potatoes are generally planted from late March to mid June, depending upon the weather, elevation and soil moisture. “Seed potatoes” are cut into uniform pieces using a machine and are then planted into the fields using a special planter pulled behind a tractor. Once the plants emerge farmers have to monitor watering carefully because drought stressed plants produce smaller, lower quality seed potatoes. Farmers also monitor fertilizer applications and stop fertilizing towards the middle of the growing season to encourage the plant to place its growth on the tubers below ground instead of the plant above ground.
Potato seed crops are harvested starting in July and can go through October, depending upon the location and variety of potato. The field is “killed” prior to harvesting and then left in the ground for around ten days, allowing the skin to dry and harden, which helps prevents infection when they are being stored. The potatoes are then dug up mechanically and placed in windrows where they are picked up using a special machine that shakes and separates the potatoes from the dirt and vines. Seed potatoes are then transferred by truck loads to climate controlled storage facilities where they are kept until they are needed to be planted.
400 acres of potato seed (pdf) were planted and cultivated in 2012, yielding 32,000 pounds of potatoes an acre and grossing $1,664,000.
Central Oregon Ag Research Center (COARC), Madras, assists the local potato industry with disease and insect monitoring (such as aphids).