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New Brunswick

By Louis Ouellette, Market Information Co-ordinator, Potatoes New Brunswick

The 2014 crop held up very well throughout the entire storage season and quality was excellent with next to no storage issues. As of mid-June, inventories were still higher than normal on processing and fresh potatoes for this time of the year, but with a hopefully busy end to the season we could see these extra potatoes find a proper home.

Seed quality has also been excellent for the 2014 crop as it was for the 2013 crop. New Brunswick seed growers worked very diligently in all aspects of their seed growing operations and managed to achieve another very successful year with over 95 per cent of the crop being at or below a three per cent potato
virus Y level.

The 2015 planting season started around the second week of May and was completed on or about the second week in June, which is considered close to normal. It was a strange planting season with all kinds of weather to speak of — rain (at times light or heavy), snow, hail and some light frost — that at times kept growers off the fields.

Rainfall for the month of May would be considered normal to just above normal, but that still made for difficult work for some growers who were able to plant only for half a day here and there. The first part of June saw the weather trend continue with a couple of great days followed by an afternoon or evening of rain, which delayed growers from completing the spring work.

As of mid-June, all of the earliest planted fields had good emergence and later scheduled varieties had also started to come up through the ground. Despite the early weather challenges, the 2015 crop has been progressing well and early indications are for a successful season.

Ontario

By Peter VanderZaag Owner, Sunrise Potato Storage and Eugenia Banks OMAFRA Potato Specialist

After a very cold winter, spring came quickly in March and it was warm and dry for most of April — and especially so for May. This permitted the potato crop to be planted early, and it was completed quickly.

There were a few surprises, like a significant frost at the end of May that did damage some emerged crops. Extremely dry conditions also resulted in some irregular emergence depending on the variety.

In first part of June, we received lots of rain and cool weather, which the potato plants loved. As of mid-June, the crop was growing rapidly with row closure and flowering starting for the earlier planted fields. Overall, there is optimism for a good crop.

By mid-June, the old crop was getting cleaned up out of storage. There were still significant quantities of chip stock potatoes in storage, all of which had a home. There were still some table stock potatoes being packed. It looks like the new crop will be early, but this shouldn’t negatively affect the old stored crop which will likely be all cleaned up by this year’s potato harvest.

Late blight remains a threat, as it has been present the past two years in many parts of Ontario. Furthermore, the discovery of late blight in potatoes on the Eastern Seaboard of the United States adds to the threat.

Farmers are encouraged to have all foliage protected by regular fungicide sprays in their regular spray programs this year to prevent late blight infection. The dry weather in May will help to reduce incidence of late blight from possible seed source plant infection in the field.

Many questions remain as the growing season unfolds, but right now there is a very positive outlook for the 2015 crop.

Manitoba

By Dan Sawatzky, General Manager, Keystone Potato Producers Association

The 2015 planting season in Manitoba began earlier than normal and well ahead of the past two seasons. The majority of the processing crop was put in the ground during the last week of April and the first week of May.

A cool, wet May resulted in minor reseeding and some delays in planting completion. Despite delayed crop emergence and some frost damage, mid-June crop progress was, on average, about four days ahead of normal.

Rainfall in the early seeded areas was timely, with some areas initiating irrigation during the second week of June. An exception was the Shilo/Douglas area, where lighter soils have a greater water requirement and water application generally begins sooner there than elsewhere. The central region had adequate moisture as of mid-June.

Another positive change this year was the increase in contract volume following two consecutive years of decreases. Previous investment in buildings and equipment can be utilized, which helps in gaining back some efficiencies.

With the earlier planting, the percentage increase in planted acreage is not anticipated to match the increase in contracted volume percentage due to a higher yield expectation. Growers realize that surplus production is often a burden to market, and therefore have attempted to match production with contract volumes.

Following planting, the focus shifts to managing the rapidly growing crop. Scouting for weeds, insects and disease is ongoing. Managing fertility and irrigation to optimize yield and quality demands attention throughout the summer.

Production from the 2014 crop continues to store well and should be processed by the time the new crop is ready. Surplus has been manageable and is spoken for by our local processors.

If the spring was any indication of the rest of the season, we are hopeful that Manitoba producers will face less weather challenges than the previous couple of years.

Alberta

By Terence Hochstein, Executive Director, Potato Growers of Alberta

Alberta experienced a relatively open and dry winter, and as a result the planting season got off to a relatively early start. By mid-June, most areas were about 10 days to two weeks ahead of a normal growing season, although the central and northern seed-growing areas were in need of some moisture to keep the development of the crop going.

By June 20, many of the southern irrigated acres had row closure. Some wind and hail damage in early June had set some crops back, but it was early enough in the growing season to anticipate a full recovery.

Overall, the total planted acres in Alberta will be down somewhat this year from last, as there is a slight reduction in processing acres and some seed growers have exited the business. On the fresh side, we are anticipating a slight increase with some new growers entering the creamer market with Edmonton’s Little Potato Company.

With Alberta’s early start and a little help from Mother Nature, our growers are looking forward to getting back to producing a high-yielding, high-gravity and excellent-quality crop that we are accustomed to supplying the processors.

Alberta growers continue to focus on our spore trapping and late blight monitoring programs in hopes of regaining our prized ‘late blight free’ status. This is a tall order but one that the scientific community in the province feels is attainable.

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