Colorado is the second largest shipper of fresh potatoes in the US. The principal crops grown here are potatoes, alfalfa, native hay, barley, wheat, and vegetables like lettuce, spinach and carrots. Our spring and summer are filled with warm, sunny days and cool nights, the combination for a perfect growing season. The cool weather also contributes to the smoothness of the potato skin and reduces second-growth roughness. This isolated alpine desert with its cold winters helps eliminate or reduce pest and disease problems, reducing our need for many pesticides.
The harvest begins in September with about 98 percent of the crop going into storage before being shipped. An integrated pest program funded by the area growers reduces aphid populations dramatically as well as the disease leafroll that aphids transmit.The soil in the Valley is a fertile, loose-packed loam. This quality is necessary because potatoes grow in the ground and the soil must be able to shift easily to allow for the potato's growth. Because the Valley receives less than seven inches of rain a year, it qualifies as a desert and must be irrigated.A natural underground water aquifer, recharged from runoff from heavy snowfall in the nearby mountains, offers a plentiful irrigation source. The modern center pivot sprinkler, used by almost all growers in the San Luis Valley, allows the grower to control the irrigation. The potato has become a staple on more than the American dinner plate. Potatoes pop up in jokes, greeting cards and toys, underscoring how much a part of our lives the potato has become.