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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…

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…

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