Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Researchers in Maine have expressed concern that if they experience a few degrees of global warming, they will no longer be able to grow potatoes. But given Maine potato varieties are extensively grown in subtropical Bundaberg, my question is, what problem are the researchers actually trying to solve?
Researchers try producing potato resistant to climate change
Nov 28, 2021
BANGOR, Maine (AP) — University of Maine researchers are trying to produce potatoes that can better withstand warming temperatures as the climate changes.
Warming temperatures and an extended growing season can lead to quality problems and disease, Gregory Porter, a professor of crop ecology and management, told the Bangor Daily News.
“The predictions for climate change are heavier rainfall events, and potatoes don’t tolerate flooding or wet conditions for long without having other quality problems,” Porter said. “If we want potatoes to be continued to be produced successfully in Maine, we need to be able to produce varieties that can be resistant to change.”
Around the world, research aimed at mitigating crop damage is underway. A NASA study published this month suggests climate change may affect the production of corn and wheat, reducing yields of both, as soon as 2030.
…Read more: https://mcdowellnews.com/news/national/researchers-try-producing-potato-resistant-to-climate-change/article_b3aa39c7-a682-5152-9b94-fb44b0493a2d.html
Bundaberg, Australia (24 degrees south, average annual temperature 77F) is a major potato and root vegetable growing region, along with sugar cane, strawberries, pineapples and bananas and who knows what else. Bundaberg experiences lots of tropical rainfall and occasional flooding.
Subtropical Bundaberg actually grows MAINE potatoes. They are no different to the varieties farmers plant or have planted in Maine.
The Subtropical Bundaberg grown Sebago potatoes at the top of the picture were developed by the United States Ministry of Agriculture in partnership with Maine Agricultural Experiment Station in 1938.
What is the secret of Bundaberg’s success with potatoes developed in Maine? Very simple – Bundaberg farmers plant the potatoes in Fall, the plants mature over winter, and they harvest in Spring, before the Summer heat kills them. The closer to the tropics you get, the sooner you need to plant, if you want to grow temperate climate vegetables, until somewhere around 27 degrees from the equator you swing right through winter and start planting in Fall.
My point is the problems of how to grow crops like potatoes in warm climates have already been solved, by farmers who have been growing potatoes in warm climates for centuries. Suggestions that this is any kind of a challenge seem a little far fetched.
There is no remotely plausible level of global warming which Maine could experience in the next century which would come close to Maine matching Bundaberg’s climate. Any warming in Maine could be addressed by simply changing the planting time by a few days, a little drainage work, and maybe importing some Australian tropical potato farming knowhow.