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Potato plants growing in a field

Assessing Soil Health

Canadian researchers are part of a North American-wide initiative aimed at standardizing the way soil health is measured in farmers’ fields. Miles Dyck has a novel way of thinking about soil — it’s just like the human body. An associate professor of soil science at the University of Alberta in Edmonton, Alta., Dyck was speaking at the Alberta Potato Conference in November about soil heath, a term referring to the soil’s capacity…

Practices for Mitigating Soil Compaction

ALTHOUGH FARMERS have known for a long time that soil compaction is an important issue, they are now getting more serious than ever about its management. Compaction can threaten potato plants in a number of negative ways, yet farmers must often make the decision to enter a field (e.g. at planting) when conditions don’t lend themselves well to compaction prevention. However, a wholistic approach throughout the year employing the latest strategies will…

Build Soil Quality and Suppress Soil-Borne Pathogens to Improve Yields Study Concludes

Canadian potato farmers, facing rising production costs and increased pressure from global competitors, are always looking for ways to increase yields. Identifying obstacles limiting potato yields is part of the answer, and was the primary objective of a major five-year research project conducted in New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island and Manitoba. Project partners in the industry-led study included McCain Foods Canada, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, Potatoes New Brunswick, P.E.I. Potato Board, Manitoba…

Oats: Fall Cover Crop

Oats have been used as a fall cover crop for decades, says Eugenia Banks, a potato specialist with the Ontario Potato Board. The plants can grow up to four feet tall, and winterkill at -8 C.  “For maximum benefit, oats should be planted at least six weeks prior to a frost,” she says. Furthermore, oats establish quickly, suppress weeds, prevent soil erosion, scavenge soil nutrients and improve soil structure, says Banks.  Better soil structure “softens”…

Primary Residue Tillage: Research Review

With cooperation of research partners, the Agronomy Initiative for Marketable yield (AIM) has been able to complete a research review and resulting extension document relating to the use of primary residue tillage (ie. Synkro/Lemken equipment) in potato production in PEI.  Results of three studies in PEI this decade have been further analyzed and compared to better understand the impacts on potato production and soil from the use of this equipment in comparison…

Fall Cover Crops: Funding Available

It’s not too early to start thinking about your cover crop plans this fall. Are you planning to plough or Synkro/Lemken in late August or early September? Then there is lots of time to establish a cover crop for the winter that will protect the soil, increase bioactivity in the soil, and improve soil organic matter. Plus, you have lots of options for beneficial fall cover crops that will establish before the…

Ireland: Potatoes Stop Growing in Parched Earth

David Rodgers, the second generation of his family growing potatoes in Ballyboughal, and his father have never experienced anything like it. So parched is the earth in this famously lush and fertile north Co Dublin countryside – renowned for its food produce – that potatoes are not growing at all. One of four brothers who grow Queens, Kerr’s Pinks and mostly Roosters over 250 acres, they supply Country Crest, which in turn…

Multi-Species Cover Crop Blend for Rotation in the Canadian Potato Provinces

Soil organic matter has become a popular topic of discussion in the past year. In Ontario, a report from late 2016 indicated soil organic matter (SOM) levels in many parts of the province are at 15-year lows, coinciding with increasing interest in the use of cover crops, reduced- or no-till management and longer rotations in the past three to five years. On Prince Edward Island, the issue of low SOM levels is…

Do Some Potato Growing Soils Suppress Powdery Scab?

A research project in New Zealand is determining if different field soils affect development of powdery scab on potatoes, and whether soil physical, chemical and/or biological characteristics influence this important potato disease. The project is developing new knowledge that may provide a basis for manipulating soil factors to reduce the harmful effects of the powdery scab pathogen. Photo 1. Powdery scab can severely reduce the quality and marketability of seed, fresh market…

Boosting soil carbon, boosting potato yields

Louis-Pierre Comeau is adding the soil carbon piece to Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) research efforts in the Maritimes. His studies will be contributing to the development of practical, profitable agricultural practices that increase soil organic matter for improved potato yields. Carbon is part of all plants and animals, and the key element in soil organic matter. “In turn, soil organic matter is essential for a variety of needs like food, fibre…

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