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Building a better potato farm, one decision at a time

Ontario potato farmers, Kate and Peter Vander Zaag have spent almost three decades investing mentally and financially in improving their crop quality[\deck] In every business, there are front-runners and there are followers. Motivated by passion and unafraid of learning, Kate Vander Zaag, and her husband Peter, have never been ones to sit back and wait for others to forge the path ahead. Farming together in Alliston, Ont. since 1990, they are fearless…

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….

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…

Potato-Vegetable Growers Give $5 Million for UW-Research

Potato growers plan to give $5 million to University of Wisconsin-Madison during the next decade to conduct research for the industry. Members of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association (WPVGA) will pay for the new research with higher assessments on their product sales. Last summer, the industry increased its assessment by one penny for every 100 pounds of potatoes and vegetables produced , and the association’s board plans to raise it…

U.S. Researchers program drone to hunt PVY in potatoes

U.S. researchers say they’ve pinpointed individual spud plants infected with potato virus Y with 90 per cent accuracy, using hyperspectral cameras mounted on drones. Donna Delparte, an assistant professor of geosciences at Idaho State University, and graduate student Mike Griffel have successfully tested a “computer-learning” algorithm they developed to tease out PVY from spectral imaging “background noise,” such as field variability and unrelated crop stress. “Our premise was to look at all…

UAVs coming to a potato field near you

Agriculture is on the cusp of a game-changing leap forward in technology. Currently, most agricultural unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are used for the technologically simple task of remote digital photography But, government and private-sector scientists alike are proving UAVs can do much, much more for Canadian farming. “Soon, definitely less than a decade from now, using UAVs will be a common-place practice; just one more tool in the toolbox,” says Dan Clarke,…

Using smartphones to battle pests

A new app has been designed to help growers of field crops identify and manage insects, pathogens and weeds. And there is potential for other crops to be included once work on the current setup is complete. Set to be officially released in 2018 on Android and iOS, the Mobile Integrated Pest Management (Mobile-IPM) app is a tool for Canadian farmers. It focuses on the major Canadian crops such as oilseeds, cereals…

How McCain Foods Uses Big Data

Big data was something McCain Foods discovered by chance. In fact it was a concept its director of agronomy Dr. Yves Leclerc wasn’t even familiar with until about a year and a half ago. “What happened really was we have some research projects and those projects appeared to be in the realm of big data,” says Leclerc, who will be speaking at the Big Data Congress in Saint John, New Brunswick next…

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…

Bacteria to the Rescue

Scientists who are employing bacteria in fight against common scab are encouraged by the results so far. Researchers at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Fredericton Research and Development Centre in New Brunswick say a type of good bacteria that can be sprayed on a potato field is showing promise as a control for the disease. Soil microbiologist Claudia Goyer and her team will be conducting more in-depth trials this summer after seeing evidence…

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