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Eye On The Nation

The latest potato production news from across the country.

Summer 2019

MANITOBA

Dan Sawatzky, General Manager, Keystone Potato Producers Association

The crop in Manitoba is progressing well. Planting was only slightly behind normal but cool May weather delayed emergence putting the crop three to five days behind. Dry conditions contributed to little seed rot being reported in spite of the delayed emergence resulting in good stands. Another observation with delayed emergence is the even staging of the crop development across the province. June weather has improved to bring the Growing Degree Days within 15 to 25% of normal since planting. Precipitation ranges from 40 to 75% of normal for the period from May 1 to June 15. 

Although spring runoff and capture of water flows allowed for the filling of almost all off stream reservoirs, rivers are very low causing some concern for irrigators dependent on those sources. Timely rains will be needed to help the crop reach its full potential. 

Acreage is projected to increase to meet the increased capacity of the Simplot expansion scheduled to come on line in January 2020. Yield goal targets have also risen keeping pace with increasing yield trend lines. Growers continue to move yields up with adopting new technology, tighter management and increased plant populations through narrowing row spacing. 

Growers are signing process contracts at the time of this writing having come to an agreement earlier this month. With the increased demand through growing markets and consumption there is some optimism within the industry. The challenge remains to match supply with demand in an efficient manner trusting that Mother Nature will cooperate. 

Manitoba is excited to host PAA (Potato Association of America) July 28 to Aug. 1 in Winnipeg. This conference will attract potato researchers from across North America and beyond. We invite all readers to attend and learn about different areas of research including the symposium on Changes and Challenges in the Potato Marketing sectors. 

Other local research field days include Crops-A-Palooza on July 24 and the potato field day on Aug. 14 both held at the Carberry CMCDC center. 

ALBERTA

Terence Hochstein, Executive Director, Potato Growers of Alberta

Although about seven to 10 days behind last year’s crop, the Alberta crop still is at the long-term average as far as crop development is concerned. With our cold and dry spring, some of our processing crop laid in the ground for six weeks before it emerged. Despite this delay, we have found very little seed piece decay, just slower development. There is, however, some indications that we have some varieties that have already got egg-sized potatoes under them. 

Although moisture has been sporadic at best in the south, the cooler weather has allowed the irrigation to keep up. Our dryland seed areas are all reporting good to excellent moisture at this time, with hopes that it keeps coming on a weekly basis. 

Our overall acres have increased in Alberta this year with the processing industry adding an additional 5,040 acres to meet the needs of the current expansion in Alberta. The biggest surprise is the 2,170-acre increase in the seed industry. It was anticipated that this sector would increase as the need for more processing acres increases but not a 20% increase in one year. 

The Cavendish plant in Lethbridge is still scheduled to come on line this summer in time to take on the new crop harvest. Currently, it is running some old crop through to get everything up and functioning properly. 

Plans for the Alberta Potato Conference and Tradeshow in Red Deer Nov. 19 to 21 are well underway. It is not too early to book your room and register if you are planning to attend. Please call the office for more information. 

The PGA launched a new, updated website earlier this spring. Check it out to see what our industry is doing as we move forward to a very promising future https://www.albertapotatoes.ca.

BRITISH COLUMBIA

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

Good weather has allowed for good sizing on our potatoes with skin set on the reds available in late July. The whites have been ready through June. We heard at the Transition Meeting that there will be a midsummer shortage of good potatoes. Also, that the Eastern harvest will be late and lower yield than normal. Unfortunately, British Columbia’s small acreage will not allow us to be much help to the East. 

I am urging B.C. growers to hold off top killing to maximize full sizing and put them into storage. This fall and winter supply and demand will be closely aligned, which will allow for fair pricing throughout the coming year and especially for count sizes. 

In Minneapolis, at the Transition Meeting we were warned that some dealers are trying to insinuate themselves between the shippers and the buyers. They will flip our potatoes keeping our profits in their pockets. Before you fill your truck ask to know the destination and ask for the price. We also heard of retroactive price drops. If we ship carefully as the market requires there is no need for the price collapses that we traditionally have seen. Remember that many shippers are more interested in selling their bags at set prices than our potatoes that are in them. Good Luck. 

QUÉBEC

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

As some other potato areas, our spring (can we call it a spring?) was cold and wet for the most part. We estimate the crop delay to be between seven to 10 days in most areas. Nothing to worry about, so far. But some growers indicated to us that crop development seems to be unequal in fields. It is too early to predict a potential yield. 

The seeding is mostly completed, but the development level varies a lot from colder areas to warmer ones. Some seed rot related to cold and humid soil has been noticed. 

The news concerning the market is better, since the pipeline is empty and the demand for processing potatoes continues to be strong. So, we could be relatively optimistic about the new marketing season, but let’s be careful. The last season was good if we look at the average prices, but quality was an issue, with more small potatoes and deformed ones. 

Have a good season! 

NEW BRUNSWICK

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

The 2018 New Brunswick crop is cleaning up quickly. With the early frosts, wet fall and potatoes left in the field, this year’s crop is very different than the 2017 crop. Lower yields, lower payables and rough, immature tubers have caused supply within the province in all sectors to be tight. Processors will likely run out of potatoes two weeks ahead of last year’s crop. Potato prices are high due to a lack of supply. 

The 2019 planting season got off to a slow start, but with Mother Nature’s cooperation we finished planting around June 7. For the most part, weather has been cooperating and we are off to a great growing season, some even suggest we have caught up from the delay in planting! 

Processing potatoes from within New Brunswick and neighbouring provinces are in high demand this year, therefore we expect to see an increase in planted acres in the province. 

SASKATCHEWAN

Matthew Lawless, President, Saskatchewan Seed Potato Growers’ Association

Spring and early summer 2019 have been busy, but productive, for the Saskatchewan seed potato industry. Last year’s crop stored reasonably well for most growers, considering the challenges throughout September and October of 2018 with rain, snow, and heavy frosts. Top-quality Saskatchewan seed potatoes were once again shipped to customers across Canada and the United States from mid-March until early June. 

Mid to late April weather across the province was favourable for tillage work and fertilizing ahead of planting. The first week of May came in very cool and wet, and this delayed planting operations. Once conditions improved, the weather cooperated for planting operations each and every day for the next four weeks, allowing growers to have all of their acres planted by the end of the first week of June. The crop is emerging evenly with exceptional vigour. Currently, the earliest planted acres are at row closure or have just passed the point of row closure. 

The province of Saskatchewan is experiencing a severe drought this growing season, and growers who have the ability to irrigate have been doing so since the middle of May. Some timely rainfall has occurred in the last 10 days (up to 125 mm), but the ground is still so dry that some growers are irrigating even after two to three inches of rainfall. As a positive, the dry, hot weather has kept disease and weed pressure low. 

The members of the Saskatchewan Seed Potato Growers’ Association wish their fellow potato growers in Canada, and beyond, a safe and productive summer growing season.

ONTARIO

Kevin Brubacher, General Manager, Ontario Potato Board

Ontario producers are expected to plant approximately 34,000 acres of potatoes this year. This estimated acreage will be verified or changed by mid-July when a planted acreage survey is complete. Planted acreage is very much in line with what was planted last year in the province. 

The first early planted potatoes went into the ground in early March, but growers were slowed down due to wet and cold weather. Poor weather conditions across the province delayed planting in many areas. As a result, planting is slowly coming to an end at the time of writing this in mid-June. This is very late in comparison to most years. There will certainly be lost acreage due to the cold and wet spring. 

We are finally seeing more seasonal weather which is progressing the crop nicely. 

In August, we will be hosting two very informative and well attended events. Please join us on Aug. 21 for the Potato Research Field Day at the Elora Research Centre, hosted by Vanessa Currie from the University of Guelph. One of our biggest events of the year is Dr. Eugenia Banks’ Ontario Potato Field day at HJV Equipment in Alliston, Ont., on Aug. 22. Please join us for these worthwhile and enjoyable events. 

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

Jason Hayden, Chairman, P.E.I. Potato Board

It’s good to be back on the land again, with the promise of a new crop ahead. The cool and wet conditions delayed planting somewhat this spring, but crops are starting to emerge, and with the early moisture and warming temperatures crops are growing quickly. 

Sprayer calibration workshops were held across the province in late June. Those tailgate sessions provided a lot of valuable information, and in addition to the calibration work, there were short but important presentations relating to due diligence with regard to meeting environmental regulations. The board continues to have discussions with federal officials regarding environmental issues, with the intent of finding ways to work together in a more collaborative and productive way. 

A lot of Island fields suffered erosion damage this winter and spring, as cover crops either failed to establish after seeding, or fields simply could not be seeded due to the freeze up. We know cover crops are very important in terms of protecting soil, but we are also learning of other major benefits including increasing organic matter, decreasing leaching and increasing yields. We hope to see a major increase in cover crop use this fall and encourage growers to look at the information on the PEI Agronomy website for information on cover crop options (https://peipotatoagronomy.com/). 

Best Wishes to all growers for a safe and successful growing season in 2019!

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