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Improving Soil, Improving Potatoes

Innovative growers and an agronomist recently teamed up to look at ways to improve the potato crop and the soil. For three years, Bruce and Hunter Wilson gave agronomist John Lightle the go ahead to try some cover crop combinations on their 6,000 acre farm in the Dufferin Highlands of Ontario. The acres are in a prime potato producing area and the growers wanted to maximize their yield while considering other cropping…

Conservation Measures Outperform Conventional Yields

Conventional potato production appears ultimately to produce the highest net return per acre. But you have to weigh that against “conservation” potato production practices that not only grow potatoes, but also do more to improve overall soil quality and health. What is that worth to a producer? That conclusion comes following a 12-year Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) field study comparing conventional irrigated potato production practices and conservation practices that included no…

Convincing the Unconvinced on Precision Agriculture

Precision agriculture is cutting edge, high-tech and full of potential. At least some western Canadian potato farmers, however, see it as overwhelming, costly, frustrating, and/or difficult to implement. If you look past the hype and excitement surrounding precision agriculture, you’ll find a group of farmers who have tried it and quit, or who were turned off the concept before they ever started. Jeff Bronsch, an agronomic consultant in Taber, Alta., understands farmers…

Sorghum-Sudangrass as Rotation Crop

The ideal potato rotation crop is one that offers more than one agronomic benefit and also has a positive effect on potato yields. An exciting rotation option with great potential on both these fronts is now being investigated in a second in-depth study in P.E.I. Sorghum-sudangrass is being closely examined as part of a larger cross-country study focused on enhancing the productivity and sustainability of Canadian potato production. The national team includes…

Select potato growers trying soil fumigation for McCain Foods

CARIBOU, Maine — The largest buyer of potatoes in Aroostook County, McCain Foods, has started trials examining soil fumigation with several of its growers. More common in western states, fumigating soil to fight nematodes and soil-borne diseases is “not something we’ve done in Maine,” Erica Fitzpatrick Peabody, an agronomist with McCain Foods, said during the Maine Potato Conference in Caribou in January. In an effort to boost yields with its contract growers…

Vietnam: Growing out of poverty with potato

The cliché of Asian agriculture is endless fields with rice. But there is literally and figuratively speaking room for the potato. The project ‘Growing out of poverty with the potato’ is trying to make Vietnam self-sufficient in the production of potatoes. Interestingly, the project involves the whole chain from producer to consumer. This benefits Vietnam in many ways. The revitalizing of the humble Vietnamese potato industry increases the standard of life of…

Idaho potato outlook somewhat brighter in 2017

For Idaho growers looking for a bright spot in 2017, potatoes might be that crop — if potatoes are already part of the rotation. Though Idaho and Washington are still the leading potato growing states, Idaho’s share has been slowly diminishing over time. Back in 1990, when Idaho growers planted 405,000 acres of potatoes, the Gem State represented 32 to 33 percent of the nation’s entire potato acres, said Ryan Larsen, an extension…

A tuber-damaging strain of alfalfa mosaic virus

When alfalfa mosaic virus (AMV) happens to occur in potatoes, it usually causes leaf mottling and blotching. Now, researchers have identified an unusual strain that causes necrosis – brownish dead patches – in tubers, the first such AMV strain found in Canada. The story of how this tuber-necrosis culprit was identified is a little like something from CSI: Crime Scene Investigation. The infected tubers were discovered in 2012 during routine sampling in…

Fall Bedding

Fall bedding in potato fields allows for soil preparation work to be done when growers typically have more time and labour available to them. In this system, growers usually irrigate, broadcast fertilizer as needed, plow, and then form beds into which they plant the following spring. For this edition of Roundtable, Spud Smart asked the following five experts to weigh in on their experiences with fall bedding. Louis Claassen, a potato producer…

PotatoSize: an easier way of estimating potato crop size distribution

As the third most important global food crop, potatoes are grown for many different markets. It is fundamental for farmers to know when to halt crop growth to achieve optimal tuber size for market and so maximize profits. Until now, standard practice has been to grade a sample of tubers through multiple sieves, counting the number within size ranges, which is time consuming and expensive. Enter PotatoSize, a new mobile app developed…

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