Gabrielle triggers early potato harvest

The fall potato harvest got a kick start this week as some P.E.I. growers braced for Friday's arrival of tropical storm Gabrielle.

Growers get a jump on torrential rain associated with tropical storm

The impending arrival of tropical storm Gabrielle saw many P.E.I. potato harvesters out on their fields a little earlier than usual. 1:23

The fall potato harvest got a kick start this week as some P.E.I. growers braced for Friday's arrival of tropical storm Gabrielle.

Many potato growers don't want to take the chance that the storm, which could to bring up to 50 mm of rain, could delay the harvest.

That would mean orders would go unfulfilled until fields dry up.

"If it's too wet, and I can't do it. We've got to shut down," said Randy Visser, owner of Gerrit Visser & Sons in Orwell Cove.

"As fall goes on, you can have some pretty wet weather and wet weeks. So, the sooner we can get it out when the crop is ready, the more efficient we can harvest. It's key."

By getting a jump start on what he can, Visser hopes to avoid a repeat of last year's harvest where record rainfall kept harvesters off the field.

Producer Randy Visser said last year's record rainfall kept harvesters off potato fields. (CBC)

Many of the potatoes sat and rotted.

At Vanco Farms, Willem VanNieuwenhuyzen's workers are busy harvesting red potatoes.

But with most of the crop still at least a week away from harvest, all he can really do is wait.

"When you get a tropical storm like that, it could end up being nothing. Or it can end up being twice as much as they predict," said VanNieuwenhuyzen.

"So you want to have enough potatoes on hand that you can keep grading, packing and shipping for the next week or so depending on how much rain we're going to get."

Growers said if the storm is a relatively light rain event, the harvesters could be back out as early as Monday.

Otherwise, they could be parked for an indefinite period of time.

Satellite imagery of tropical storm Gabrielle as it approaches the Maritimes. (Environment Canada)