Eye on the Nation



By Terence Hochstein, Executive Director, Potato Growers of Alberta

Alberta’s spring got off to what most would consider a normal spring, with good weather and normal moisture. Planting got underway in the south about April 20, with the north seed areas starting about three weeks later.

It’s a good thing we had early spring moisture because that is the last that most growing areas received. The south has not received any widespread general rains since the first of June, while some of the north areas received moisture in mid-June. Some of the seeded areas were lucky enough to receive thundershowers at the right time to keep the crop moving along.

Without irrigation in the south part of the province the entire processing crop would have been a disaster. Irrigation started early and has for the most part not been turned off until harvest began. Southern Alberta has experienced one of its hottest and driest years on record. We had 30 C plus days for approximately 40 days straight, without much reprieve at night. That alone does not bode well for most crops, let alone potatoes. The only crops that thrived this year appear to be corn and sugar beets.

All processors were switched over to new crop by mid-August with new crop yields about what was to be expected given the year. By mid-September, early varieties and most chippers had been harvested with yields being in the five-year average range. Field-run russets are currently being dug with storage to follow.

Sod turning for the new Cavendish plant in Lethbridge occurred Sept. 18. This new plant will eventually increase the processing acres to about 50,000 acres. McCain is also undergoing an internal expansion this fall that will increase their requirements. These two increases are welcome by Alberta growers, and show the confidence in the quality that is grown here year after year.

The PGA Annual Trade Show and Conference will be held Nov.14-16, 2017 at the Sheraton in Red Deer. Please call the office (403-223-2262) for registration and further details.


By Hugh Reynolds, Reynelda Farms, Delta, B.C.

We are all working from light to dark: B.C. is way behind as we had endless rain until June, which placed most planting a month behind. Growers who have sand over gravel were able to plant earlier, but there were washouts. We have had very little rain since June, less than an inch in the Fraser Delta. Those with irrigation now have decent fields.

There is little rot that comes with the drought. Many are trying to get some size by leaving tops green well past the normal killing date. This will bite us if the November rains come early.

Yields will be much lighter than normal. Good news is that our prices are fair. It is much worse to have a good crop that sells below the cost of production.

Even though we had a tough year, there were some excellent new varieties at the B.C. Potato & Vegetable Growers Potato Variety Trial Field Day on Aug. 30. Final results will not be in until cooking tests in January.

BC Fresh is the biggest grower-owned distributor of potatoes in B.C. We are expanding also into broccoli, cabbage and Brussels sprouts with harvest into November. BC Fresh is building another, larger warehouse that will open in April 2018 to allow for expanding business.


By Dan Sawatzky, General Manager, Keystone Potato Producers Association

When I wrote this in mid-September, the temperature in Carman reached 35.7 C, setting a new record as well as Carman being named the Canadian hotspot. The heat in the first half of September exceeded a normal level, which prevented an early start to harvest into storage due to high pulp temperatures. The recent heat may also delayed normal end-of-season tuber bulking and hastened plant senescence. With the annual possibility of damaging frost after Oct. 1, the window of harvest is beginning to shrink.

Throughout the other summer months, temperatures were ideal with only a handful of days over 30 C. Early-season moisture was good, although throughout the growing season, irrigation was relied on heavily in the processing sector and by those who had irrigation ability in the fresh sector, as rainfall was half of normal.

Direct harvest began mid-August with yields similar to last year. Specific gravities are on the high side with good size, although smalls are higher than some would like in a few fields. Some limited late blight was found, but with dry conditions and vigilant grower preventative action through fungicide application and areas of vine desiccation, we hope it will not cause storage issues.

Heavier than normal sets had been pointing to potential yields matching or exceeding last year, but that will be dependent on the ability of the plant avoiding frost and staying healthy to contribute size on the storage crop. Only after the harvest is completed will we know the outcome.

Manitoba Potato Production Days “Great Canadian Potato Show” will be held Jan. 23-25, 2018 in Brandon.


By Jean-Maurice Daigle, Director of Market Information, Potatoes New Brunswick

The 2017 New Brunswick potato crop got off to a later start than normal this spring due to cold damp conditions. New Brunswick planted ~3,400 more acres for the 2017 crop and this was to supply an increase in processing demand from McCain and out-of-province processors.

June and July saw cool weather with all precipitation coming in the form of localized thundershowers of varying amounts. August brought a stretch of dry weather and increased temperatures that resulted in some areas and varieties showing signs of stress.

September brought much-needed rain to all areas and soil moisture levels are adequate now.

Early indications for the 2017 crop are showing average yield with good quality.

Harvest activities started earlier this year in chipping potatoes due to increased demand. Off-field processing potatoes were starting to be harvested in the first week of September. Growers are holding off on harvesting storage potatoes for the time being, as daytime temperatures are too high.

Potatoes New Brunswick Annual General Meeting is being held Dec. 1, 2017 at the Florenceville Kin Club in Centreville. The New Brunswick Conference and Trade Show will be on Feb. 1, 2018 in Grand Falls.


By Kevin Brubacher, General Manager, Ontario Potato Board

Ontario came off one of the worst growing seasons on record in 2016. The 2017 growing season has been a relief for many in the industry. Mother Nature seemed to throw a bit of everything at us this growing season. Some areas of the province received little to no rain, whereas other areas remained wet throughout most of the summer. Despite some setbacks due to the weather, overall the crop fared quite well.

As of mid-September, marketing of the early crop was beginning to wrap up and harvest of storage potatoes was in full swing. Early indications for the 2017 storage crop are showing average yield with good quality.

Due to wet conditions in some areas, late blight was a big concern this season. Thanks to Dr. Eugenia Banks and her late blight management research project using innovative spore trapping technologies, growers were able to stay on top of the problem and implement timely crop protection strategies.

On Aug. 16, Vanessa Currie hosted the Ontario Potato Research Field Day at the Elora Research Station, showcasing over 100 potato varieties for the processing and table markets. The next day, Aug. 17, Dr. Eugenia Banks hosted the Ontario Potato Field Day at HJV Equipment in Alliston. This event has grown into one of the largest in the industry. With attendees coming from across Canada, many enjoyed the events that were back-to-back in order for them to attend both. These are definitely two events you should plan to attend in the future. Thanks again to Vanessa and Eugenia, your hard work and dedication to the potato industry is a benefit to us all!

The Ontario Potato Board Annual General Meeting will be held Dec. 6, 2017 at the Cambridge Holiday Inn.


By Rodney Dingwell, Chair, PEI Potato Board

The talk of the Prince Edward Island potato industry this growing season has been rain…and the lack of it for many parts of the province. Rainfall has been spotty, with some communities experiencing up to six weeks with no appreciable amount of rain, while other communities not far away getting some timely rains to keep the crops going. With the grand majority of PEI potatoes grown under dryland conditions, the lack of precipitation this summer has a significant impact. That being said, many growers are remarking at how well some of the long-season varieties look despite the lack of water.

Harvest has started in Prince Edward Island in September for early table and processing potatoes, both for French fries and chips. If the weather cooperates, the majority of farms will start their main harvest in late September.

A fixture of the late summer and early fall are a number of field days and research tours presented in partnership with industry partners. In late August, the Agronomy Initiative for Marketable yield (AIM) hosted the Soil Health Caravan team from the Quebec Ministry of Agriculture for an in-field workshop on soil health and soil compaction. It was a well-attended event and provided much food for thought for growers interested in improving soil health and soil structure.

Additional field days on the late summer schedule included the annual Cavendish Farms Research Field Day, a 4R Nutrient Stewardship field day at Rollo Bay Holdings in Souris, and a Variety Evaluation and Crop Rotation plot tour at AAFC’s Harrington Research Farm.

The PEI Potato Board Annual Meeting will be held Nov. 17, 2017, in Charlottetown.


By Michelle Flis, agr. Économiste, Les Producteurs de pommes de terre du Québec

After a difficult spring, the potato crop was able to take advantage of the climatic conditions in early- to mid-September to recover. At that time, the weather was less warm and the nights are cooler.

The development of the potato crop has had better growth in several regions, but tuberization is still seeing a slowdown in some places.

Generally, yields in most regions will be within the average of the past five years, but will not reach the record levels of 2015 or last year. The Lower St. Lawrence region has been affected by dryer conditions, and yields are lower and well below the average. The heavy rains recorded in the southwest region of Montreal caused very little damage to the crop.

Producers need harvest conditions to be good and fear that hurricanes south of the border will bring excess rain to our regions.

Insects are under control; some areas required localized treatments only. We have new cases of late blight and sporulation risks present almost everywhere in the province: early burn, dartrose and verticillium wilt.

The CRAAQ (Centre de reference en agriculture et en agroalimentaire du Québec) Potato Symposium is being held Nov. 17, 2017, in Lévis.


By Desseri Ackerman, Manager, Saskatchewan Seed Potato Growers Association

There are several areas in Saskatchewan that began harvest shortly after Sept. 6; however, producers further north will be starting later.

Producers are reporting an average yield rate.

It was a very dry summer in some areas, so disease pressure was low.

Trending This Week

Person making a plan

Setting Goals in Cover Cropping — A Key to Success

Where are you going? How soon do you want to get there? These are questions we need to ask before we head out on...
Newly emerged rows of potatoes

It’s Go-time for Growing Season 2023 (But Don’t Forget Storage, Too)

Planting is on the horizon in some areas and in full swing in others! After a frustratingly cool and slow spring in most potato-growing...
Spudnik 8312 planter

Manitoba Potato Planting Nearing Finish Line

Almost 95 per cent of Manitoba's processing potato crop has been planted, the May 26 provincial potato report from Manitoba Agriculture’s Vikram Bisht said. Seed...
Beer at bar

What About Sustainability in Storage?

I was having a beer with a potato farming buddy a couple nights ago and – as usual - we started talking shop: what’s...
Green potato field

How Do We Achieve Meaningful Sustainability?

It seems everyone is talking sustainability today. But, what does sustainability really mean in the context of today’s farming realities, and how do we...