Dogs and Potato Diseases Take Centre Stage at Alberta Potato Conference


Potato diseases and farm transition planning took centre stage at the second day of the Alberta Potato Conference and Tradeshow in Red Deer, Alta. In amongst tradeshow visits and networking growers were treated to presentations throughout the day.

“Learning for me the more technical aspect of the pests and diseases, and what we can do about it and what we can do to control it has been really interesting in terms of the speakers so far,” Victoria Stamper, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada, says.

The second day of the conference featured presentations on:

  • Elaine Froese presenting on farm transition planning
  • Gary Secor presenting on managing potato diseases in storage
  • Mike Thorton presenting on climate change and the physiological effects on potatoes
  • A regenerative ag panel featuring Chad Berry, Neil Bareman and Harold Perry
  • Andrea Parish with Nose Knows Scouting demonstrating how her dog Zora can sniff out PVY in potatoes

Highlights from the second day include:

  • When looking at transition planning, you need to have personal wealth, not just all of your wealth tied up in the farm. This is so that you can take care of all of your family not just the ones who will be taking over the farm, Froese says.
  • Every transition plan is different, there is no checklist, Froese says. You need to have a driver in your family to start the tough conversations.
  • This is not do it yourself succession planning, get yourself a good set of professionals to help you out, Froese says.
  • Bacterial soft rot can happen in field or storage, but the bacteria needs a wound to enter. True for all bacterial infections, Secor says.
  • Secor says the most important thing you can do for potato storage disease management is to reduce the amount of injuries at harvest.
  • Fusarium dry rot develops slow in storage and causes problems the longer the potatoes sit, Secor says.
  • If you smell ammonia when you go into your potato storage then you have pink rot. Good news though is that it doesn’t spread in storage, Secor says.
  • The impact of heat stress on potatoes all depends on when the heat happens and how you deal with it, Thornton says.
  • The optimal temperature for growing vines is higher than for growing tubers. So your foliage will look great but your yield will be down, Thornton says.
  • In Manitoba, Berry mainly uses grasses and fall rye for cover crops. If they plant oilseeds the flea beetles will move in from canola fields and eat up the crop within two weeks of planting.
  • Berry and Bareman are both working towards tightening up on fertilizer placement. Want to move from banding fertilizer to broadcasting.
  • Bareman says when it gets cold in the fall, fall rye is the only crop they have access to that they can plant in that cold and
  • will grow.

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Ashley Robinson was raised on a mixed cattle and grain farm in southwestern Manitoba. She attended the University of Regina where she studied journalism. Following university, she has spent the better part of the past decade writing about agriculture in publications across Canada and internationally. Robinson’s agriculture writing has covered topics from rural issues to commodity markets. Since joining Seed World Group her work has focused on covering all aspects of the Canadian potato industry from planting to farm management, and agriculture in Alberta focusing on how the seed industry connects to farmer’s daily lives.