AJ Bussan, UW-Extension Vegetable Crop Production System Specialist
UW-Madison College of Agricultural and Life Sciences
(608) 262-3519, (608) 225-6842
Taking a look at the Wisconsin vegetable crop with AJ Bussan.
3:06 – Total Time
0:17 – State’s place in vegetable production
0:56 – The 2012 season in review
2:06 – New developments
2:37 – Less potato acres for 2013
2:56 – Lead out
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Sevie Kenyon: AJ, can you give us an idea where Wisconsin stands in the vegetable world?
AJ Bussan: Sure. The latest statistics show that Wisconsin’s the second largest producer of processed vegetables in the country, only trailing California. When you look at the combined areas that are producing crops, and particular vegetable crops, between Minnesota, Wisconsin and Illinois, it’s just about the largest continuous vegetable production region in the country, if not the world. So we play a pretty important role, especially when you consider that more and more Americans consume more vegetables. We have about a $6 billion economic activity in the vegetable industry in the state and there’s about 40,000 employees.
Sevie Kenyon: AJ, can you give us an idea [of] what kind of season 2012 was for our growers?
AJ Bussan: The hot, dry conditions, especially late May through June and end of July, really caused issues with flowering of a number of crops, including sweet corn, the beans and peas. The high heat also caused a lot of quality issues with potatoes and specifically with the solid content of potatoes. The result is you end up with French-fries that [are] not as good texturally as they would be normally. But the sunlight and optimal temperatures in most of August through September actually ended up producing some of the highest yielding vegetable crops. That wasn’t the case for fresh market farms; a lot of fresh market farms rely on precipitation as part of their water management strategies. Many of them do have irrigation capacity to, sort of, fill in [and] those were really tested and stretched this year. A lot of fresh market farms didn’t have quite the quality for a number of crops. That said, we’re seeing fantastic growth in the economic side, the business side on the fresh market side. I think we have, maybe, 500 or 800 more fresh market vegetable farms now than we did when I started 10 years ago. I think that’s real encouraging and that seems like an industry that’s growing.
Sevie Kenyon: AJ, is there anything particularly new?
AJ Bussan: On the fresh market side we’re seeing a lot more emphasis on quality characteristics. I would say, when I started in the early part of this millennium, a lot of folks were growing heirloom varieties [and] trying to find high flavor varieties. I think there’s been a lot of focus on that area, so we’re seeing new vegetable with improved flavors and improved nutritional values that people seem to be searching for. There’s a market that’s being created for it and so we see some folks that have been able to take advantage of that.
Sevie Kenyon: AJ, look into your crystal ball a little bit. What do you see in the year ahead? What do you see down the road?
AJ Bussan: I think at the potato side of things we saw over production. [It was] probably the largest production we’ve seen since 2007 and I’m seeing potato prices in the grocery store a third of what they were 12 months ago. The reason for that is there’s over supply right now. Most potatoes are being sold at a loss to the farm and so I’m guessing that we’ll see reduced acres of potatoes.
Sevie Kenyon: We’ve been visiting with AJ Bussan, Department of Horticulture, University of Wisconsin Extension in the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences, Madison, WI and I’m Sevie Kenyon.
NOTE: This podcast is part of a series presented in concert with The Status of Wisconsin Agriculture and the Wisconsin Ag Outlook Forum held on Jan. 23. More information here: http://www.cals.wisc.edu/agoutlook/