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Local farmers using straw fires to warm fields to finish spud harvest

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IDAHO FALLS — There is smoke in the air this morning in Bonneville County, and many people have been asking where it’s coming from.

Turns out, it’s a number of local farmers attempting to keep their fields warm so they can finish the potato harvest.

Central Fire District Chief Carl Anderson reports there are a number of farmers near the Arco Highway that have been surrounding their fields with one-ton straw bales, and then lighting them on fire during the night. The hope is to keep the temperature around the fields high enough to prevent frost from seeping into the ground and destroying the crop.

This week potato growers have been scrambling to get their spuds out of the ground as temperatures have dropped below freezing early this year.

RELATED: Community rallies to help farmer in need before the ground freezes

“(Farmers) really can’t dig potatoes on nights when there’s a frost because you run a risk of having cold potatoes or cold damage to the spuds,” University of Idaho Extension Office Educator Lance Ellis told EastIdahoNews.com.

Ellis said if the potatoes get too cold, their quality significantly drops, and they won’t last as long in storage.

“Everybody’s digging as fast as they can. The ones who aren’t done — and there are quite a few guys who aren’t done yet especially up in the upper valley — they are digging as much as they can with all hands on deck,” Ellis said.

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