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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…

Public trust in Canada’s food system

“Very serious” – that’s how United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC) general manager Kevin MacIsaac describes the issue of lost public trust in Canadian agriculture. “We have to approach this in the same way we would deal with issues of food safety and other key issues,” he says, “because it will eventually lead to declines in consumption of certain foods if people do not trust the source.” John Bareman, chair of the Canadian…

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…

PEI Potato Industry Partners Launch Enhanced Agronomy Initiative

The Prince Edward Island Potato Board, Cavendish Farms, and the PEI Department of Agriculture and Fisheries have announced the creation of the Enhanced Agronomy Initiative. The Initiative has a goal of improving marketable yields of processing potatoes and profitability of potato growers in PEI while also improving environmental sustainability of the industry. To meet these goals, three working groups have been established, with membership of both farmers and industry resource personnel. These…

Potato Wastewater

Water availability and water quality are two issues that are gaining a lot of attention these days, and concerns have led to stricter agricultural water-use regulations in some provinces. In Ontario, for example, farmers will feel the impact of new phosphorus loading targets for Lake Erie that the federal government is expected to announce soon, as part of the Great Lakes Water Quality Agreement between Canada and U.S. When tubers are moved…

Turning Potatoes into Biogas

Since its formation more than 90 years ago, one of the guiding principles of Surrey, B.C.-based Heppell’s Potato Corp. and its owners has been the fundamental belief that there is always a better way of doing things. So it was only natural three years ago that when partners Pete Schouten and Wes Heppell began looking for solutions to one of their biggest challenges — acquiring more agricultural land in British Columbia’s fertile…

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…

Wild Potato Cousins

The potato probably has more related wild species than any other crop. These wild relatives grow through much of the Americas, from the United States southwest through Central America and then along the South American Andes Mountains from Venezuela through Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia and northwest Argentina. They also occur in the lowlands of Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and southern Brazil. Over millions of years, various wild potato species have adapted to…

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