In the springtime shipping rush, the organizing, grading, shipping and occasional crisis managing that define seed potato sales can make even the most seasoned producer frustrated. Unfortunately, the pressure to fill orders quickly can result in potatoes that went into storage in perfect condition arriving at customers’ doors bruised and cracked. Given that the ultimate goal and the key to long-term business success is customer satisfaction, speed needs to be secondary to proper seed handling practices.
The first steps to efficient spring shipping occur in the fall. When potatoes enter storage, preplan and organize according to how the varieties are likely to ship in spring. While this kind of organization is sometimes easier said than done, any minimization of movement in spring will pay off in quality.
Many in the industry are shifting towards storing seed potatoes in boxes rather than bulk, especially as thin skinned varieties continue to gain market traction. Boxed storage allows better ventilation and humidity control, and protects seed potatoes both from pressure and from handling injuries. In addition, boxed storage is much easier to manage for producers growing a large number of varieties.
In spring, timing and technique are critical to maximize quality. Final grading should be done immediately prior to shipping rather than returning potatoes to storage, whether shipping in bulk or in totes.
Prior to grading and shipping, some seed potato varieties may need to be warmed a few degrees coming out of storage. In particular, chipping varieties are susceptible to harm. Handling potatoes cold can result in shatter bruise and cracking under even careful handling practices. As bruising takes time post-injury to become obvious, a potato can leave a seed producer’s facility looking perfect but, by the time it arrives to the customer, show damage. The result could mean a dissatisfied customer and perhaps unnecessary claims.
To ensure the safe conveyance of the seed potatoes, it is necessary to disinfect the trailer, monitor the loading (to ensure even weight distribution on the axles), and double check the trailer temperature.
And finally, good communication and complete paperwork limit unnecessary delays and mix-ups in delivery, and help ensure a customer’s goals and timing are met.