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Eye On The Nation

MANITOBA 

Dan Sawatzky, General Manager, Keystone Potato Producers Association 

Heat and lack of rainfall highlight the growing conditions for Manitoba this season. Above 30 C days were double the normal, which will have some effect on yield and quality. 2011 was the most recent year where we experienced similar heat, which resulted in significant yield losses. 

Dry conditions were carried over from last fall and winter, where little precipitation fell. This summer’s rainfall was below normal in all regions ranging from 75 – 85 per cent to below 65 per cent for significant parts of the potato-growing region. 

Although the 2011 experience saw additional infrastructure built, we still experienced some reservoirs run short of water in August, and most being completely drawn down. Producers are much better prepared than in the past and continue to add irrigation infrastructure capacity. We will be dependent on snowfall this winter for run-off, or spring rains next season, to refill these holding ponds. 

The early harvest of Rangers has resulted in average yields with good quality. Some limited harvest of both Umatilla and Innovator varieties is looking promising. The concern of heat and drought, however, is on the Russet Burbank crop, which has not yet begun to be lifted. Early test digs have shown some evidence of stress reflected in tuber shape and size profile. The effect on yield will not be determined until the main harvest gets underway in mid-September. A positive result of the dry season has been the absence of blight. 

The number of farms in the province has decreased by 33 per cent since 2011, and those remaining have continued to make investments to gain efficiency while striving for improved yield and quality. A high degree of management and work has been exerted this season. The 2018 Russet crop will be a test to determine if their efforts will be rewarded. 

Plan to mark your calendars to attend our annual Manitoba Potato Production Days Conference and Trade Show. The dates and location are January 29, 30 and 31, 2019, at the Keystone Centre, Brandon, Man. More info is available at www.mbpotatodays.ca 

ONTARIO

Kevin Brubacher, General Manager, Ontario Potato Board 

The 2018 growing season has been a challenging one. Mother Nature didn’t seem to want to cooperate. Most areas of the province received little to no rain; some areas were better off, but still did not receive the rain we needed. Despite some setbacks due to the weather, growers were able to produce a decent crop. Yields on the early crop are down significantly. Marketing of the early crop is beginning to wrap up and harvest of storage potatoes is in full swing. Early indications for the 2018 storage crop are showing average yield with good quality. Dr. Eugenia Banks continued her second year of the late blight management research project using innovative spore trapping technologies. With the dry weather, late blight never emerged as a major issue. The monitoring program gave growers good peace of mind throughout the season however. Thank you, Eugenia!

On August 22, Vanessa Currie hosted the Ontario Potato Research Field Day at the Elora Research Station showcasing over 100 potato varieties for the processing and table markets. The next day, August 23, Dr. Eugenia Banks hosted the Ontario Potato Field Day at HJV Equipment in Alliston. This event has grown into one of the largest in the industry! With attendees coming from across Canada, many enjoyed the events which were back to back in order for them to attend both. These are definitely two events you should plan to attend in the future. Thanks again to Vanessa and Eugenia, your hard work and dedication to the potato industry is a benefit to us all! 

The Ontario Potato Board will host its Annual General Meeting Wednesday, December 5, 2018, in Guelph, Ont., at the Delta Hotel and Conference Centre. If you are interested in attending, or becoming an exhibitor/sponsor of this event, please contact the Board Office at (519) 846-5553. 

ALBERTA 

Terence Hochstein, Executive Director, Potato Growers of Alberta 

The effects of our late spring start appear to be behind us. Over the course of the summer most of our crops have caught up, and in some instances, appear to be ahead of an average year. One instance of note is our older, tired fields, which have had 6, 7 or 8 potato rotations over the last 50 years are experiencing a noticeably lower amount of ‘early die’ this year. The jury is still out about whether the late seeding had anything to do with this occurrence. 

Our field run crop appears to be slightly above our long-term average in regard to yield. Quality is excellent so far, with slightly higher than normal gravities. Our chipper yields appear to be excellent as well. As of Sept 15, we are just starting on our Russet Burbank harvest, but all indications are we will have a relatively good crop here as well. It is always difficult at this time of year to accurately predict what we will have for a crop. Two days of freezing, bad weather and all of this can change. 

The Potato Growers of Alberta, along with all other potato-growing areas across Canada, continue to engage with PMRA on the many chemistry reviews that are happening. It is through the Canadian Potato Council that we are able to provide a unified voice and represent our industry across Canada. 

As the Alberta industry continues to move forward with the Cavendish expansion, set to open in July 2019, many of our growers are undergoing new storage builds on their operations. As in most agricultural expansions, the background work and preparation is often a couple of years ahead of the actual startup date. This also includes our seed industry ramping up their production to meet the future demand. 

The PGA AGM and Conference has changed location and venue for 2018. Our event will take place Nov. 13 – 15, 2018, at the River Cree Resort in Edmonton, Alta. For more information please contact the PGA office at 1 (403) 223 2262. 

NEW BRUNSWICK 

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

The 2018 New Brunswick potato crop got off to an earlier start than normal this spring due to dry conditions which made it ideal for planting. New Brunswick planted approximately 4,000 more acres for the 2018 crop, and this was to supply an increase in processing demand from McCain and out-of-province processors. 

Early growing conditions in June and July saw very little precipitation. Most of the precipitation was in the form of localized thundershowers of varying amounts and concentrated in the southern portion of the Saint John River Valley. 

August brought much-needed precipitation to the valley, again with higher amounts being accumulated in the southern areas. September has been cool and soil moisture levels are adequate now. Early indications for the 2018 crop are showing average yields and quality with some variability based on growing area. Harvest activities have started this month with chipping and early processing varieties. Growers will be starting to harvest storage potatoes in the coming weeks. 

QUÉBEC 

Clément Lalancette, Directeur general, Les Producteurs de pommes de terre du Québec 

As you may know, Quebec potato production is pretty well spread in the province, so crop condition could vary quite a bit between areas. For example, the first week of September was hot, but some areas like Saguenay-Lac-St-Jean and Abitibi-Temiscamingue had cold nights with temperatures between 0 – 2 C. 

We received good precipitation, but some areas did not receive enough water. One area, Bas-St-Laurent, will ask for AgriRecovery assistance, since they’ve suffered a drought for the last two years. We think the potato calibre will be on the small side, but with the weather improvement in the past weeks, it could help to regain size for the long varieties. 

We expect an average yield of about 285 hundredweight per acre, which is much lower than last year at 306 hundredweight per acre. The Eastern market should be in balance again this year, so we are optimistic about the prices. With no late blight cases, the quality seems to be good, so we expect a good season. 

The processing demand is very good. The exchange rate is helping exportation but some U.S. growers put pressure to reduce them, so we will see what’s going on. We are pretty happy about our new research consortium starting work with a minimum $300,000 budget per year for the next five years! 

BRITISH COLUMBIA 

Hugh Reynolds, Reynelda Farms, Delta, B.C.

A good crop is expected, but rain is coming and some fields remain to be dug. May was nice and allowed for a good start, but June was cool and held potatoes back and stunted potential growth. The summer was hot and dry, and hurt non-irrigated fields. 

Quality is tops, with most fields getting 120 days compared with last year’s 90 days. This year reds and yellows are excellent quality, with lots of count size coming out. The good start allowed for strong summer sales. Early digging was too dry, but this problem was cured mid-September with regular rains, which we wish would now stop. Yield is not tops, but it’s very good and much better than last year. 

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND 

Darryl Wallace, Chairman, P.E.I. Potato Board 

No matter where extreme weather events happen around the world these days, we hear about it in a matter of minutes — from hurricanes and tornadoes to wildfires and typhoons — and we are in awe at the power of Mother Nature. Closer to home we are dealing with the impacts of the 2018 weather season on our farms. The late spring, dry and hot summer and now an early killing frost in many areas of P.E.I. will all affect the yield and quality of the crop we dig. Early harvest is underway and new crop potatoes are going to market. 

We are certainly not alone in dealing with weather and environmental factors affecting the crop this year. We hear reports of the impacts of the drought in Europe and overall, North American Potato Market News is forecasting a 2.3 per cent reduction in the North American potato crop. We are encouraging our growers to stay up to date with current market reports as we will need to get as much value as we can out of the crop we dig this fall. 

The P.E.I. Potato Board is changing the format for its Annual General Meeting this year. Our Annual Business Meeting will be held on November 21, 2018, in Charlottetown. We are pleased to be teaming up with the P.E.I. Department of Agriculture to present a two-day P.E.I. Potato Conference, Trade Show and Industry Banquet on February 19 and 20, 2019. Hope to see you there. 

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