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Colorado potato acreage down for interesting reasons

Potato acreage in Colorado’s San Luis Valley is down 8 percent this year.

While that might seem alarming to some, it sounds reasonable when the matter is explained by Jim Ehrlich, executive director of the Colorado Potato Administrative Committee.Colorado-planting

According to the committee, this valley is the second-largest fresh potato growing region in the U.S.

The growers voluntarily planted less to accommodate the urging of the Colorado water engineer, who asked the growers to collectively step up their effort toward water conservation.

Other factors for a reduction in potato acreage is an increase in hemp plantings to serve the burgeoning CBD market. Also developing in the San Luis Valley is an ongoing, three-year upward trend in the production of quinoa.

There is a state target for the valley to have a sustainable water table by 2030. “That’s a ways away,” Ehrlich noted. But the effort is under way. Aiming for that target was helped by a heavy snowpack last winter, which not only irrigated fields in the dry region, but also “really helped” boost the aquifer beneath the valley.

He added that the area is part of the Rio Grande River watershed and is thus obliged to not consume their surface water but to share with downstream neighbors in New Mexico and Texas. “That’s fair,” Ehrlich cheerfully noted, because those parts of the Rio Grande Valley were settled before Europeans made homes in south-central Colorado.

The 2019 San Luis Valley potato crop can be described as late and average in size, he said.

With an elevation of 7,600 feet in the growing region, it’s a short growing season — and this season was shortened by a late start. Other than that, “we’ve had no adverse weather. It should be a good crop.”

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