Eye on The Nation



By Terence Hochstein, Executive Director, Potato Growers of Alberta

Spring came early to Alberta this year, and with that, the crops were planted about two weeks ahead of normal. April and May were unusually warm and gave the crop a great start to the season. Optimism was abundant that the processing industry would have another bumper crop on their hands.

June, July and August rolled around and the weather kind of went sideways. Extreme wind, rain, hail and a lack of heat looks to have contributed to an average yielding crop for the processing russet Burbank potatoes. Our seed industry on the other hand, although starting out extremely dry this spring, was the recipient of timely rains and excellent weather for the most part. The optimism for an excellent seed crop remains high at this time. A few hundred miles in this province seems to make all the difference in growing conditions this year.

All of the processors were able to switch over to new crop prior to Sept. 1 and are well on their way to another full capacity year. The harvest that has started has been ideal in terms of no weather delays and cooler temperatures, thus allowing very few daytime shut downs. Quality to date on the harvested crop appears to be excellent.

Plans continue to celebrate the 50th Anniversary of the PGA at the Banff Springs Hotel in Banff, Alta., from Nov. 21-23. For more information please contact the PGA office at 403-223-2262.


By Dan Sawatzky, General Manager, Keystone Potato Producers Association

Manitoba was privileged to host the Potato Marketing Association of North America in July. The crop showed well as the group toured a large part of the growing region.

In Manitoba, the ideal growing season continues to be an elusive dream although some areas experienced excellent conditions from seeding through till the beginning of harvest. Those favourable plant growth conditions, however, were conducive to disease pressure with late blight discovered by mid July. Additional protectants and tighter spray scheduling has kept the disease contained and growers are optimistic it will be manageable.

Yields on the limited early harvest have been strong and test digs of the storage crop look promising. The early development of the crop continues to place it ahead of normal, showing promise of good yields, provided that it will finish well and avoid early frost or other weather related threats.

Although the overall crop has good potential there are areas that have experienced severe weather in the form of hail, rain and heavy windstorms. A number of centre pivots flipped over due to wind. In particular, the southeastern part of the growing region has suffered loss due to excess moisture. This affects fresh production greater as it is confined to that region.

An additional challenge arising this year with the favourable development of the crop related to yield and quality is compounded by a delay in direct harvest while old crop continues to be processed. This could have lingering effects throughout the shipping season.


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

The 2016 New Brunswick potato crop got off to a good start with a slightly earlier spring and adequate moisture. Rainfall amounts throughout the province were variable in June and July with the northern portion of the potato belt receiving timely, regular amounts of precipitation and the southern part of the belt, along with the eastern costal growing region receiving lesser amounts. The reduced rainfall amounts had an impact on tuber set, size profile and in some areas limited yield potential.

Early indications for the 2016 crop are showing average yield with good quality. Harvest activities started in early August for chipping potatoes, in the last week of August for processing off-field and the storage crop to start late-September.

New Brunswick planted ~2,000 acres less for the 2016 crop, spread almost equally in the three sectors (seed, processing and table).


By Kevin Brubacher, General Manager, Ontario Potato Board

The 2016 growing season in Ontario has been a challenging one. This summer, some parts of Ontario suffered from some of the worst drought-like conditions ever recorded. The extreme temperatures and humidity coupled with little to no rainfall throughout the growing season put immense pressure on the plants.

The early crop suffered the most. Yields were down well below average, and poor sets and a small size profile were the norm. The good news is quality has been excellent. We were lucky enough to receive a few substantial rains in August which should help the later crop. Unfortunately, some of these rains were too little too late to make a difference. At the time of writing this, late crop harvest is underway; yields are expected to be better but will still fall below average.

Ontario was fortunate enough to host two very successful field days this summer. The Ontario Potato Research Field Day was held Aug. 10 at the Elora research station. Vanessa Currie with the University of Guelph showcased over 100 potato varieties for processing and table markets including new varieties for Canadian producers and consumers. Vanessa had an excellent speaker, Andreas Boecker, who presented “Specialty Potatoes – What Information Would Consumers Find When searching Online?” Thank you Vanessa.

On Aug. 18, Dr. Eugenia Banks hosted the Ontario Potato Field Day at HJV Equipment in Alliston. This very successful event hosted approximately 250 growers, crop consultants and potato industry personnel from across Ontario. Potato growers from Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Quebec also attended the event. On display were over 100 new potato varieties for the fresh, processing and specialty markets, the latest potato equipment and a large tradeshow. Eugenia hosted a world class event and we thank her for her dedication to the potato industry.

This growing season, the Ontario Potato Board and Dr. Eugenia Banks evaluated an innovative spore trapping technology to help growers take late blight management to the next level. Spore traps were successfully used to detect the presence of late blight spores in the air before infection takes place and before symptoms are visible in fields. Knowing late blight spores were present was extremely valuable to potato growers to better time sprays and to include late blight specific fungicides which are more effective than protectant fungicides. We look forward to continuing this project with Eugenia next year.

Finally, I would like to congratulate Don Brubacher, former general manager of the Ontario Potato Board, on his retirement. Don stepped down as general manager on Aug. 1 and is assisting with the managerial transition until his official retirement on Oct. 31. Don has been a great asset to the Board throughout his 28 years working with us; the past 18 years as general manager. We wish him well in his retirement and sincerely thank him for his years of service to the potato industry.


By Alex Docherty, Chair, PEI Potato Board

Expectations for the 2016 crop on PEI can be best described as mixed. Rainfall all summer has been very localized across our small Island with cloudbursts and showers hitting one area while only a few miles away the ground remained dry. Growers are hoping for an average crop of good quality.

The other variable will be wireworm damage. Growers were pleased to have access to Thimet and also the new product Capture to combat this pest. As well, many growers have been incorporating rotation crops such as brown mustard into the mix to reduce wireworm pressure. Harvest this fall of research plots and commercial fields should provide good insight in to which practices seem to be having the most impact on this pest.

As well as preparing for harvest, Island potato growers are also continuing with their efforts to communicate with non-farming Islanders about why growers follow the practices they do, what the industry is doing to reduce their environmental footprint, reduce soil erosion and build the health of our soils while continuing to contribute to the economic health of our province. We just completed a successful Open Farm Day where the public was invited to visit farms across the province, including several potato farms. This provides a first-hand look at the business of potato farming and prompts many useful discussions.

Early in October, the PEI Potato Growers are the title sponsor of Farm Day in the City, an event that brings as many as 10,000 people into downtown Charlottetown to visit a special farm market. It is a great opportunity to reach out to our neighbours and “Talk Taters.” These ongoing communication efforts are important to help our non-farming neighbours understand our business.

We wish all potato growers a safe and productive harvest season.


By Clément Lalancette, Directeur Général, Les Producteurs de pommes de terre du Québec

Since Québec is relatively big and production areas well split in the province, the crop situation is variable. It has been dry in most areas but some of them received a lot of rain recently. The eastern and northern regions received much less rain.

It is hard to predict an average yield so far but we could say it will be less than last year’s record which was 315 cwt/acre. We could expect something between 275-285 cwt/acre.

The quality seems to be good and digging had been going well for the early varieties like Envol. No late blight report so far. If we have a look on the market, we think the eastern market (Ontario, Québec, New-Brunswick and PEI) will be in a good shape this year with an estimated volume of production at 57M cwt. The demand for process potatoes is good too.


By Desseri Ackerman, Manager, Saskatchewan Seed Potato Growers Association

Saskatchewan has had a very wet year. Farms in the Outlook area received between 25 and 28 inches of rain by mid-August, with more since then. Some fields experienced as many as three hail storms, although none has reported significant damage.

The Yorkton area had several significant weather events. Between eight and nine inches of rain per storm occurred there; producers did what they could to cope with that amount of water in a single event.

Disease was not a huge issue this year, but producers had to implement an aggressive plan in order to stay ahead. There have been no reports of late blight. Rigorous top kill began early (by mid-August). The quality of potatoes looks good, as does yield. Other crops (pulses and vegetables) will perhaps not fare so well.

Producers are optimistic there may be a bigger market for seed potatoes this year than in recent years.


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