The “hollow heart” problem that is devastating Maine potato producers is also having a significant impact on New Brunswick potato producers, although a dollar estimate of the damage is not yet available.
Hollow heart is caused by sudden fluctuations in temperature and moisture, according to potato experts. It renders potatoes unmarketable as table varieties. The province had a very dry spring, and producers who planted earlier seem to have suffered the most, although some of the farmers who planted later are reporting incidents of hollow heart in some of their crop.
The imperfection leaves the center of affected potatoes hollow and surrounded by brown tissue. The problem is exacerbated by the fact that growers can’t detect the problem from the outside of the potato and therefore can’t grade them out.
The dollar loss to New Brunswick growers is still undetermined because a lot of the potatoes affected were processing potatoes which are still being delivered. About half of the province’s potato acreage is insured for crop loss, including hollow heart. In an average year the New Brunswick potato crop is valued at about $75 million.
The hollow heart incidence seems to be greatest in the Russet Burbank and Atlantic varieties of potato, the most commonly grown in New Brunswick.