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Eye On The Nation

The latest potato production news from across the country.

Fall 2019

MANITOBA

Dan Sawatzky, General Manager, Keystone Potato Producers Association

MANITOBA 

Dan Sawatzky, General Manager, Keystone Potato Producers Association 

As I write this article in mid-September, the storage potato harvest is finally fully underway. Rain that was in short supply over the summer came in the early part of the month, limiting harvest progress. Processors managed their supply through rain stock, asking growers with direct contracts to lay their product in sheds to be shipped during the rain events. The shrinking harvest window between rain delays, the extreme heat forecast over the next few days with highs of 30 C and lows of only 18 C, and the impending frost later on certainly tested the growers’ mettle. 

Some adjustments have been made to improve harvest efficiency following the devastating harvest last year where only four per cent of process producers managed to fill their contracts due to wet conditions and frost, but the weather will need to cooperate to bring the crop in. 

The crop has fared well throughout the growing season with intensive crop management, including irrigation and fertigation coupled with the avoidance of heat stress, and it appears to have good potential. The early varieties are producing average yields and as the main Russet Burbank harvest is beginning, we are seeing decent yields, but size is off a little due to high sets and slow emergence this spring. Top growth remains healthy with no damaging frosts and no reported late blight. 

Harvest, although stressful, is the time of year when one can look back at all the hard work over the spring and summer and begin to feel a spirit of gratitude as the crop comes in. Planning for next year is also on producers’ minds, and the fall activity of planting cover crops, purchasing inputs, preparing ground, pulling up irrigation pipe, moving irrigation systems, and planning equipment replacement or repair among other activities, contribute to the year-round nature of farming. 

The Simplot expansion continues to take shape with start-up production scheduled for late January, early February. A few sheds are being completed and others started this fall for additional production needs. As farms grow and continue to learn to improve their operations, there is anticipation and excitement for the future here in Manitoba. 

Planning begins for our annual conference, Manitoba Potato Productions Days, on January 28 to 30, 2020. More information is available at www.mbpotatodays.ca.

ALBERTA

Terence Hochstein, Executive Director, Potato Growers of Alberta

In December 2016, it was announced Cavendish Farms would be building a new “state-of-the-art” processing plant in Lethbridge, Alta. Here we are in October 2019 and the plant is now officially up and running. The potato industry in Alberta appears to be alive and well, so much so that it continues to expand and become a bigger player in potato production in Canada. 

The year 2019 will be remembered with one word … FRUSTRATING…. Our seed growers in central and northern Alberta, in some cases, have had a summer of extreme moisture, some up to twice the normal amount. Given the situation, it appears the acres that were harvested have produced an excellent, although somewhat smaller, profiled yield. The average summer temperature in Edmonton was reported to be about 16 C, some 7 – 8 C below normal. This, too, may have led to the somewhat smaller yielding crop. 

The processing industry has had its own share of challenges this summer with a major hailstorm going through the Taber-Barnwell area Aug. 6. Over 3,500 acres of potatoes were affected with some acres having to be written off. As of the last week of September, the south needs about one week to finish off harvest. A major weather event is predicted for much of Western Canada with 15 to 20 centimetres of snow and single digit freezing temperatures. If we can survive the weekend without too much damage, most growers feel they will have an average yielding crop. 

The PGA’s Annual Potato Conference and Trade Show is coming up Nov. 19 to 21 at the Cambridge in Red Deer, Alta. If you plan on attending, please register soon by checking out the registration page on our website at www.albertapotatoes.ca. 

BRITISH COLUMBIA

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

British Columbia has had an excellent growing season and we have been shipping wonderful potatoes and other crops. We have a great crop of potatoes to dig. Starting mid-September, a cold low has stuck off our coast, giving us showers every couple of days. The potatoes are still in great shape, but the trucks are having trouble in the field and tractors with wagons are slow on the road. I am submitting this report Sept. 20, and at this time, the future is unpredictable. The weather can go either way and at this time we need three good weeks out of the next six to get this crop inside. 

QUÉBEC

Michelle Flis, Marketing Co-ordinator, Les Producteurs de pommes de terre du Québec

Fall is fast approaching and bringing cold mornings and some ground frost in northern Quebec, yielding large potatoes. In several regions, harvest has already begun, and the yields are quite good. Of course, they vary depending on whether the soil is sandy or not. Many producers are satisfied because the yields are better than last year; the quality is there, and the size is generally average. Red and yellow potatoes will be harvested later in the season. 

Even though the level of potato exports is low so far, there is nothing to worry about; prices have remained stable since the beginning of September. Potato promotion has positively influenced demand. Producers still remain optimistic, even though a good crop yield is subject to good harvest weather conditions. 

Have a great harvest! 

NEW BRUNSWICK

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

The 2019 New Brunswick potato crop got off to a late start this spring with cold temperatures pushing planting by seven to 10 days later than normal. Demand from processors resulted in an increase of about 1,500 acres being planted in 2019 compared to last year. Upgrades at the processing plants and the shortage of last year’s crop were the result of the increased volume demand. 

Growing conditions throughout the potato belt were highly variable during the growing season, with very localized rainfall events. The effects of such variability translated into the variability in set, size and yield being observed in the fields. Early indications for the 2019 crop are showing average yields and quality with some variability based on growing area. 

Early round varieties seem to have been affected more by the shorter and drier season than later maturing long type varieties. Harvest activities are ongoing for the chipping varieties and the early processing varieties have started since early September. Quality at the processors on the early varieties is excellent with good payables, significantly higher than last year’s. Storage varieties should be going into storage within the next few weeks. 

SASKATCHEWAN

Matthew Lawless, President, Saskatchewan Seed Potato Growers’ Association

The 2019 growing season was a challenge for Saskatchewan’s seed potato growers. In the west-central area of the province, growers were faced with an abnormally wet, cool, and humid summer. In the east, dry weather led to significant crop stress, and irrigation reservoirs were run down very low as growers tried to keep water on their crop. Conditions in the north were the polar opposite, as heavy rainfall made crop management difficult, and this rainfall continues to significantly impact the harvestability of the potatoes. 

Harvest in Saskatchewan began in mid-August, and has been progressing well ever since with favourable weather (the exception being in the northern section of the province). Our members are reporting a below-average yield with good quality. Our neighbours in the table sector are reporting below-average yield and size, with good quality. Our members would like to wish our fellow potato growers across Canada a safe harvest season, with weather much kinder than that experienced in 2018. 

ONTARIO

Kevin Brubacher, General Manager, Ontario Potato Board

At the time of writing, the Ontario potato harvest of storage crop potatoes is in full swing. After a spring and summer where we saw extremes of wet and dry weather, the crop looks promising. Ontario will definitely have some fields that suffered from the extremely dry weather throughout the summer months, but with the help of irrigation, many fields pulled through. We are hopeful for an average yield on potatoes going into storage with excellent quality. The summer crop of fresh potatoes is coming to a close. Summer growers had good yields and benefitted from strong pricing throughout most of the season. 

On Aug. 21, 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, 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 that the events 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, Dec. 4, in Guelph, 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. 

PRINCE EDWARD ISLAND

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

A cool, late spring, followed by dry weather in July and August and a wet September has meant another year of variable and extreme weather conditions for P.E.I. potato farmers. While growers are hopeful for better yields than 2018, it is likely that crops will be variable across the Island again this year. 

As growers start another harvest season, industry support staff are already planning for winter potato education sessions. The 2020 International Potato Technology Expo is scheduled for Feb. 21 – 22 at the Eastlink Centre in Charlottetown, P.E.I. This highly successful international event has been held biennially for more than two decades. It focuses on all aspects of the potato industry — from seed, to soil, to growing, harvesting and storage. 

The exhibit space allows for displays of the latest in field and packing machinery and technology and many booths providing information on new developments in crop protectants and other production support products. Information sessions for growers provide updates on local research and the latest in production news and available crop input products. For information on attending or exhibiting at the event, please check out the website at www.potato.expo.ca.

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