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Saturdays in the Garden: Poor Potato Harvest

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My family will be enjoying a special treat of potato salad made from our own organically grown Cranberry Red potatoes. Unfortunately, it won’t stretch far. We’ve had a disappointing potato harvest.

red potatoes harvested with dirt still on them

The purist in me is at ease knowing the plants and soil had no toxic pesticides on them.  Yet, our harvest was not nearly what it should have been if we’d caught the pests before they did too much damage.  I was gone for a few days, and I returned to see that something had sucked the life out of nearly every plant.  It didn’t help that we’d had some extremely rainy days.  Was it the common Colorado potato beetle or something else?  Not sure.

Dead Potato Plants

Some organic farmers say it can be done — getting a harvest by manually watching out for pests. Others use certain pesticides approved by the National Organic Program.  The reality is that even many organic producers are using some sort of pest control on large fields of potatoes.  These substances are mentioned in instructions from Wood Prairie Farm, where my seed potatoes came from the past couple of years.

While this doesn’t put me at ease, it reminds me that USDA Organic potatoes are still a better alternative to those grown conventionally.  So many toxic pesticides are use in conventional potato fields, and there’s so much concern about pesticide drift into the air of nearby communities, that Minnesota residents have started a Toxic Taters movement toward more sustainable potato production.  Pesticides allowed on conventional potatoes range from likely carcinogens to those suspected of neurological and autoimmune effects.

You probably already know the Environmental Working Group dug into agriculture data to report that potatoes typically carry more pesticide residue per pound than any other grocery store produce.

I cut eyes from some other organic potatoes we’d eaten recently and planted those.  So, we’ll see if I can better manage those few plants until harvest time.  In case you were wondering, conventional potatoes these days are often treated with a chemical to prevent them from sprouting.  Sounds like another reason to go organic whenever possible.

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