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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…

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…

Potatoes and biochar are not friends

Studies have shown that adding biochar to soil can improve soil fertility, increase nutrient utilization in plants, improve soil water-holding capacity, increase crop yield and reduce emission of greenhouse gases. However, if you are a potato farmer, your joy may be short-lived. Biochar and potatoes do not go very well together – at least not if you are aiming at saving water, according to results from Aarhus University in Denmark. During her…

Soil Fumigation in Potatoes

While it is practiced extensively in the United States, soil fumigation is anything but common in potato production in Canada. But there’s a growing voice within the industry that views soil fumigants like chloropicrin as an important tool that should not be overlooked for ensuring healthier, better yielding potato crops. For this edition of Roundtable, Spud Smart asked the following six experts to weigh in on the use of soil fumigation in…

Investing in Better Drainage

During a wet year, having tile drainage in your field can make or break your crop. So says potato producer John Goff, co-owner of Corduroy Plains Farm near Carman, Man. Under certain conditions, he says, tile drainage can mean the difference between a bumper crop and no crop at all. Goff’s farmland is made up of Almasippi soil, with a clay layer about four feet from the surface. Although the sandy soil…

Russeting of Red-Skinned Potatoes is a Tough Problem

An attractive appearance is crucial in the marketing of table potatoes. A clean, shiny, bright-coloured skin free of diseases or other defects is desired in red-skinned cultivars such as Norland, Pontiac and Peregrine. Unfortunately a range of diseases and disorders can interfere with the appearance of red-skinned potatoes. In some years russeting of the skin is one of the most common quality complaints facing growers of red-skinned potatoes. While a russeted skin is an…

Increasing Competitiveness

Researchers have received $1.4 million in federal funding for an industry-driven research project to study ways of boosting potato production and address Canada’s declining export competitiveness. Announced by Agricultural Minister Gerry Ritz in Fredericton, N.B. on July 14, the national research effort is being led by Potatoes New Brunswick and involves the participation of scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Potato Research Centre in Fredericton, N.B. along with University of Manitoba researchers, other…

Crop Rotations

The effect of sensible crop rotation on pest and pathogen populations in potato crops is coming under increasing scrutiny these days, and is a matter that most commercial farmers in Canada carefully consider when planning for the next cropping season. In fact, many growers regard crop rotation as a primary cornerstone of their sustainability strategies. In addition, studies in Canada, the United States and several European countries consistently confirm the importance of…

No Winter’s Rest for Soil

In recognition of the profound importance of soil for human life, the United Nations has named 2015 as the International Year of the Soils. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada supports this and another UN initiative, World Soil Day, which took place Dec. 5, 2014. With the benefit of new funding from the government’s Growing Forward 2 program, AAFC researchers are investigating biological processes in the soil in an effort to identify better ways…

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