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Soil Health Key for Long-Term Potato Production

Across North America, most potato crop yields have been on the rise in the past few decades. In parts of Canada though, data has revealed that yields in some areas have either decreased or remained stagnant, especially in New Brunswick. Soil scientists attribute this to waning soil health due in part to short rotations and soil erosion. As a result, improving soil health is top of mind for many producers. The Importance…

Strain Tracking

Through a national initiative, Canadian researchers have found that late blight strains have shifted dramatically across the country since 2009. The researchers have also identified important differences among the strains in such characteristics as fungicide sensitivity, host preferences, and aggressiveness on potato tubers and foliage. And their findings are making a vital difference in late blight prevention and management. The research is led by Rick Peters, a research scientist with Agriculture and…

Potatoes and Water Management: From Deluge to Drought

Potato producers know all too well that controlling Mother Nature is as likely as reigning in a two year-old. In either case, you’re doomed before you start. At the same time, there are ways to optimize water use efficiency and minimize the damage from floods and droughts. For this edition of Roundtable, Spud Smart assembled five industry experts to discuss the importance of water management to potato production, and how to deal…

Simple and Effective Late Blight Detection

Determining late blight presence and the resulting pressure on potato crops is an ongoing challenge. Usually, potato growers start a preventive fungicide program with broad spectrum fungicides before row closure, which ensures stems and leaves at the base of plants are protected from both early and late blight. If late blight is identified in the field, growers switch to fungicides that specifically target it for enhanced crop protection. But what if it…

Mesh Keeps Pests Off Potatoes: NZ research

In New Zealand, a team of Lincoln University researchers is impressed with the results from a trial of a mesh cover that is used to protect potato crops from insect pests. The effectiveness of the mesh at protecting potatoes from the tomato-potato psyllid (TPP) was tested in a trial at the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR) field site at Lincoln. Future Farming Centre head Dr. Charles Merfield said the mesh was “incredibly…

IPM Training Module Launched

Positive comments are coming fast and furious for a new potato integrated pest management (IPM) training module recently launched by the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA). According to OMAFRA, “the module is a great educational tool with information for the common insect pests, diseases, viruses and disorders of potatoes in Ontario.” The creator of the module is Eugenia Banks, OMAFRA’s longtime potato specialist who retired in late 2015….

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…

Warmer, Drier Climate with Plenty of Variability

Since there is no immediate “fix” for the weather, Canadian potato farmers have to be ready for change and be adaptable, advises David Phillips, senior climatologist with Environment Canada. The climate is changing. Although it may not seem like it during specific weather events – exceptional rainstorms and severe cold snaps – evidence predicts climate over the coming years will be warmer and drier. That will mean changes. “The farms that will…

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