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Show Your Harvester Some Love

It’s been a tough harvest for many North American potato farmers. In my neck of the woods (northern North Dakota), August’s drought turned into rain that wouldn’t quit through September and then unseasonably frigid temperatures and deep snow just as harvest was ready to get rolling in October. Conditions have been changeable and challenging from Alberta through Manitoba, and Washington through Wisconsin. Difficult harvest conditions aren’t only hard on farmers; they’re hard…

Are Your Potatoes Old Before their Time?

Potatoes are nature’s perfect energy storage capsules: ideally designed to withstand a period of dormancy and then burst into life as the next growing season approaches. For thousands of years, humans have benefitted from tubers’ unique dormancy adaptation. In the last 50 years, we’ve figured out how to benefit even more by expanding on nature’s design: now we produce tubers by the thousands of hundredweight; then manage them in storage for months…

Spud Cleaning 101

Prepping your potatoes for storage depends on smart harvesting and effective cleaning. Everyone knows digging too warm, too cold and too wet are all bad news for long-term storage, as is allowing your tubers to drop and bruise during harvest. However, putting your potatoes into storage in less than clean condition is just as costly in the long run. New cleaning options exist. Here’s a quick recap of what you need to…

Here’s What You Need to Know About Portable and Prescription Temperature Control

Do you remember when strawberries were only available a few months a year? When it was acceptable a case of sweet potatoes weighing 40 pounds at Thanksgiving would shrink to 38 lb. by Christmas, and 30 lb. by Easter? When consumers accepted that “new” potatoes were something time-limited and special? Shockingly, none of these realities were very long ago. What a far way we’ve come in a short number of years. Today,…

Sprout Inhibiting Options Do Exist

It’s no secret why potato sprout inhibiting CIPC is so popular: it’s cheap and it works. That said, the EU’s recent banning of CIPC has caused many North American producers to proactively ask about alternatives. Here’s what’s available to tackle sprouting today. Scientists and companies continue to tinker with ethylene. The work isn’t new: we’ve seen industry trying to make sprout control via ethylene commercially viable for 20-plus years. The main problem…

From Potato Spinners to Touchscreens

With the technology available today, it’s hard to imagine that potato harvesting has ever been anything but efficient. But consider this: humans have cultivated potatoes for about 10,000 years; automated harvest technologies have only developed over the past 150-ish years. That means all our automation has been squeezed into just 1.5 per cent of our relationship with potatoes. But what good use we’ve made of that time! The first major harvest automation…

The Art of Keeping Spuds Comfortable: Today’s Insulation Options

On a frigid, 40-below night in February or a broiling, 30-above day in July, would you feel comfortable having a long nap inside an under-insulated shed? Potatoes don’t either. The good news is that virtually everyone is pushing for more insulation R value today. Spray foam insulation now offers better fire retardant and more food grades than earlier generations of foam. The main change, however, comes in depth. Virtually across all potato…

10 Quick Ways to Protect Your Investment

There’s nothing worse than seeing the crop you’ve invested all season growing get bruised, nicked or otherwise compromised during harvest. The good news is most handling damage is avoidable. Here are my top tips to ensure your crop comes through harvest in the best possible condition. From ground-opening right through until the potatoes are safely stored or shipped, equipment should be optimized to agitate/bounce/drop/roll tubers the minimum necessary (ie: the minimum amount…

Will the EU’s CIPC Ban Affect You?

The recently announced ban of sprout inhibitor chlorpropham (commonly known as CIPC) in the European Union is causing major waves in the global potato industry. Announced in mid-June, the ban is effective on product registrations as of Jan. 8, 2020. Grace on residue application will only be given until Oct. 8, 2020 (a specific maximum residue limit has yet to be announced). Since the EU’s ban was first announced, I’ve been asked…

Building More Storage? Use Decisive and Numbers-Oriented Decision-Making

I get a lot of phone calls and emails from growers looking for advice about building additional potato storage. Though every farm is unique, one piece of advice that works in virtually every situation is this: think big. Make no mistake: I am not advocating that growers take on impossible debt or build much bigger than they need. Rather, I mean all farmers, regardless of size, should follow corporate farms’ decisive and…

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