Across Canada potato growers are finishing up harvest, the Oct. 20 crop update from the United Potato Growers of Canada says.
Most provinces, with the exception of British Columbia, have experienced excellent harvest conditions without cool temperatures or wet conditions. In the west yields are below average, while they have been above average in the central provinces and exceptional in the east, UPGC says.
Prince Edward Island
Potato growers on the Island have about 85 per cent of their crop dug, with most expecting to finish this week. Following two years of disappointing yields, this year has been exceptional in terms of both tonnage and quality, the report says.
UPGC says yields are expected to be in excess of 340 cwt per acre, compared to last year’s 250 cwt per acre. Potato yields have not been this high since 2006 for the province.
“Two large Hurricane events in early September were instrumental in bulking tubers at the end of the season. Harvest conditions have been excellent, bringing the crop in ahead of schedule,” the report says.
There are expected to be a few unharvested acres due to water damaged areas from the September rains, UPGC notes.
The potato harvest in New Brunswick is mostly complete except for those growers short on storage or delivering out of field, the report says. Yields and quality have been outstanding, with some growers reporting their best crops on record.
Yields are estimated at 350 cwt per acre compared to last year’s drought ravished crop at 237 cwt per acre. Late season rainfall helped bulk up the crop, but did also cause some abandoned acres due to water damage. Harvest conditions have been excellent overall, UPGC notes.
“The resulting increase in 2021 production has attracted the interest of french fry processors who have already began moving loads out of the province on a westward journey to those regions that are deficient in their needed supply of potatoes.”
The potato harvest in Quebec is almost complete with only a few areas left. The report notes these potatoes are being dug, washed and packed directly from the field as most storages are full.
Yields are expected to be in the 300 to 310 cwt per acre range, higher than last year’s 293 cwt per acre. UPGC says quality is also nice, with the size profile being better than anticipated. Harvesting conditions were excellent, but some warmer days have caused concern for storage conditions.
“Any extra supply of processing potatoes should get picked up by the local processor. Demand on the fresh side has increased since school opened, and chain stores have done a good job of promoting potatoes over the last five to six weeks.”
Chip potato growers in Ontario are about 95 per cent done harvest. UPGC says some growers have filled their storages for winter contracts and are now waiting for field deliveries for the rest of their crop.
Table potato growers are 90 to 95 per cent done and in a similar situation as their chip counterparts with full storages, the report notes.
“It is unusual there has been no frost or cold temperatures yet in the province, so this has allowed good processing colour and good fresh quality to continue for out of field markets.”
Yields have been above average with nice size profiles, the report says. Soils have been wetter which have many growers using ventilation systems for storage.
For processing potato growers in Manitoba, harvest was mostly done by the Thanksgiving weekend. Harvest conditions have been excellent with no frost or cold temperatures, the report notes. There has even been some much needed rain over the last three weeks.
“Warm temperatures were great for maintaining end colour for out of field deliveries but created some afternoon delays and stoppages with temperatures too hot to store.”
There are very few unharvested acres this year, UPGC says. Yields are variable depending on the growing region and water availability.
“The growing season had 36 days with heat exceeding 30 C which trimmed overall yields. The heat is also attributed to quality issues such as more smalls, lower gravity, and sugar ends.”
Fresh potato harvest is also complete with harvest conditions having went from very hot, to cooler last week as some growers delayed for skin set, UPGC says. Yields are 70 to 80 per cent of regular while table quality is decent and size profiles are reasonable.
“However, due to the summer heat there is a full spectrum of sizes, as some varieties produced less tubers (but bigger ones), while other varieties did not size up.”
The Saskatchewan seed potato harvest was done by Oct. 16, the report says. Harvest started out hot and dry with irrigation being used to soften clods. Conditions towards the end of harvest became cooler with temperatures dipping below freezing at night.
Yields are on par with the three-year average of 250 cwt per acre. Some growers are reporting an additional 15 per cent above that yield, the report notes. Quality exceeds previous years, with some seed surplus being reported on certain varieties.
In Alberta the potato harvest was mostly done by Oct. 12 with excellent digging conditions being reported, UPGC says. There are no unharvested acres this year.
Excessive heat did reduce yields by 10 to 15 per cent with processing acres being particularly hard hit.
“Quality is all over the map, but the usual heat stress related issues are expected to be prevalent. The resulting supply is one that is short of what industry needs and would like to see for the upcoming months.”
The report notes yields are also off in the northern seed growing region, but size profile and quality are nice.
The potato harvest in B.C. is done, except for acres that were abandoned due to wet conditions, UPGC says. Digging conditions were excellent for most of the harvest until Sept. 17 when it started raining.
“It has been a bit of a struggle for the last of the crop coming out with more heavy rain on Sept. 27, but growers dug all they could.”
Due to the heat, yields were below last year’s 332 cwt per acre, but similar to the 2019 crop. Fields without irrigation were lower, with the heat also making for smaller size profiles.
“In summary, the 2021 growing season has provided a potato crop that is imbalanced across the country. There are areas short on supply which will need potatoes that are available from areas with additional supply. The differential will be based on freight and the logistics of moving this crop.”
UPGC also notes this is their final crop report of the season. Statistics Canada will release its potato production numbers on Dec. 7.