Handling of Potatoes

If precautions aren’t taken, potatoes can be damaged considerably during any one of the operations involved in digging, picking, hauling, grading, and storage. Careless handling of potatoes results in a lower market price and excessive losses during storage. Immature tubers require particular care and attention inasmuch as they are high in content of water and their skin is easily “feathered” or rubbed off. During periods of hot, sunny weather, the tubers should be picked as soon as possible after digging to avoid injury from sun-scald. Injury of this type can be largely avoided by digging in the late afternoon and picking in early morning. Where possible, it is often desirable to leave the potatoes on the ground for a period of 30 minutes to an hour after digging to provide time for the skin to dry and “harden”, and thus reduce the amount of skinning. In northern areas, it is not advisable to permit potatoes to remain in the field overnight after they have been dug during periods when frosts may occur.

The use of good judgment on the part of laborers and operators of equipment is highly important in the proper handling of potatoes. Injuries can be reduced materially by taking care and using discretion in (a) dumping the potatoes into the containers in the field, (b) loading and transporting them from the field, (c) transferring the tubers from the containers to the grader, and (d) operation of the grader.