Eye on the Nation, New Brunswick, Saskatchewan, PEI, Alberta, Manitoba, Spud Smart Winter 2011

New Brunswick | Saskatchewan | Prince Edward Island | United Potato Growers of Canada |
Alberta | Potato Research Centre | Manitoba

New Brunswick

By Robert Gareau,
Potatoes New Brunswick

New Brunswick’s potato harvest is progressing well with mostly ideal digging conditions. Overall, yields are average with excellent quality; close to 50,000 acres are expected to be harvested.

Potatoes NB will hold its annual meeting on Friday, November 26, at the Florenceville Kin Centre. The 2011 New Brunswick Potato Conference and trade show will be held on Thursday, February 10, at the E.P. Sénéchal Centre in Grand Falls (more information is available on the Potatoes NB website at (www.potatoesnb.com).

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By Kirk Flaman,
Saskatchewan Seed Potato Growers’ Association

It was very muddy in early September, but the recent warm weather has harvest progressing quite well. Tuber yield is average to above average on the early planted fields and is expected to be less on the later fields. Harvest in most areas is about one week later than usual.

The SSPGA’s annual conference will be on November 12–13, in conjunction with the Saskatchewan Green Trades Conference. All the best to those harvesting!

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Prince Edward Island

By Boyd Rose,
Prince Edward Island Potato Board

Getting the Most from our 2010 Crop
As I write this on October 1, we’re just entering our main harvest season. The possibility of bumper potato crops across Prince Edward Island disappeared with the heat and dry spell in August, but many growers are reporting a good quality crop with average yields. We won’t know the full situation until the crop is all under cover.

Many of us have been following the reports of weather-related crop losses in major producing areas this year. Areas as diverse as South Africa, Russia, Germany and Pakistan have suffered significant decreases in potato production, and potatoes will have to move from other areas of the world to help fill the void. Prices should be higher as a result of the reduced supply and stronger demand, and higher prices are definitely being received by producers in many areas.

Closer to home, some areas of Canada and the United States are also predicting lower production this year. Idaho, Wisconsin and Alberta are all experiencing less than ideal growing conditions. P.E.I. Potato Board staff and our exporters are fielding many more enquiries from buyers around the world, and we are also seeing good movement to offshore markets to date this season. There is no reason to think this will change, and our challenge is to be very aware of the supply situation in Prince Edward Island, Eastern Canada and North America this marketing season. Analysis by the board shows that we will have no difficulty in moving our entire crop, and that there is no need to force anything into the market this year. As growers, we know that we need good money for this crop to cover our 2010 production costs and to help repay some of the substantial losses from the 2009 crop.

We need to make smart decisions as we move this year’s crop. Please take the time to check out the market and the supply before you accept a price for any or all of your potatoes. Last year’s prices were lower than they should have been, and conditions are in our favour to do much better this year. Consumers always get value when they buy potatoes—let’s get the best possible return for our efforts and investment so that we’re still in business to give them that quality and value for years to come.

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United Potato Growers of Canada

By Ray Keenan

During the summer, I had the opportunity to make a presentation to the Board of Governors of the Bank of Canada about potato farming, and the challenges and opportunities we face as farmers in producing a crop and taking it through to market. I shared with the group the escalation in cost of production and total farm debt that we’ve all faced in recent years, the consolidation of buying power at the processor and retail level, and the need for a reasonable return on investment to enable farmers to continue to participate in the business of producing food for Canadians and others around the world.

Part of my message was the efforts of United Potato Growers of Canada to help improve returns for growers by providing better information on the supply and demand for potatoes. We know that the demand for potatoes is seen as relatively “inelastic,” therefore, overproduction has a severe and direct negative impact on prices and returns. A lot of factors can affect our eventual total production of potatoes in North America, but it does start with the basics of how many acres we put in the ground. Planting only the number of acres required to meet the “known” markets each of us has, and avoiding open or speculative acres, goes a long way to increasing our chances of receiving reasonable returns for our labour and investment.

United has been working on obtaining the most accurate picture possible of our total potato production in Canada, and then separating out how much of that is already contracted or committed to processing and how much is destined for seed markets. The amount remaining is the volume of Canadian potatoes we will have to market in the coming season. We need to get that number as accurate as possible, and then share it with growers, packers, dealers, exporters, retailers, food service and processors so that we make the best possible decisions on the marketing of the crop. We know we can produce potatoes. Our challenge is to market them more wisely, and ensure that all stakeholders receive value and benefit from our efforts. Please plan to attend the United Partners Program Seminar in your region in early 2011 for more information on this and other United initiatives.

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By Edzo Kok,
Potato Growers of Alberta

Alberta’s larger seed growing areas experienced a dramatic shift in weather this season versus the  last two years. Drought-like conditions were replaced by very timely rains which have helped produce a significantly higher yielding and excellent quality crop. Harvest began on schedule with the interruption of more rainfall followed by a very warm stretch that allowed everyone to finish in time. Alberta will have a very good supply of high-quality seed this year.

The main harvest of the processing crop was delayed due to wet conditions and started a week to 10-days later than normal. The extra time allowed the crop to bulk and made up for some of the lateness that was evident all year due to the late planting and cool, wet spring. Excess rainfall in June led to the abandonment of approximately 4,000 acres in southern Alberta. With only average yields on the storage crop, growers will struggle to fill their contract volumes this season due to the earlier losses. The quality of the crop looks good as it goes into storage. Many growers are treating their potatoes with protectant to avoid any storage issues related to disease or harvest conditions. Proper storages and good storage management will be critical to achieving the highest value for this year’s crop. Alberta growers have invested in all of the latest technology in their storages to provide them with the best tools for bringing out the quality they are known for.

Upcoming conference and trade show:
November 16–18, 2010
Alberta Potato Conference and Trade Show Capri Hotel, Trade and  Convention Centre Red Deer, Alta.
For details and registration information, visit


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Potato Research Centre

By Gilles Boiteau
Starch Granule Difference in Heritage Potato Cultivars

Heritage potato cultivars—with their great diversity of tuber shape, color and taste—continue to serve as a valuable genetic resource for potato genetic improvement as well as for gardening. Potato starch granules were already known to be unique compared to other crop starches but recent work at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Potato  Research Centre in Fredericton, N.B., revealed that the shape and size of starch granules vary among different heritage potato cultivars.

Researcher Xiu-Qing Li analyzed the starch granules in fresh potatoes of 14 heritage cultivars including Angelina Mahoney’s Blue, Bliss Triumph, Cherokee,  Columbia Russet, Congo, Crotte d’Ours, Gold Coin, Green Mountain, Houma, Irish Cobbler, La Veine Rose/Belle Rose, Russet Burbank, Siberian and Up To Date. Crotte d’Ours was found to have starch granules with irregular and sand-like shape, while those in Bliss Triumph were oblong and relatively regular in shape. Russet Burbank tubers showed the largest starch granules on average while Congo, a blue cultivar, had the smallest. The observation is interesting considering the importance of starch granule morphology for starch applications in the industry.


By Garry J. Sloik,
Keystone Potato Producers’ Association

Manitoba Processing Potatoes
As this article is being written in early October, the weather is fully cooperating—sunny, warm and windy—allowing harvest to finish. In Manitoba, harvest has been very trying for many producers, the sporadic rains continued and the Portage, Carman and Winkler areas lost many of the mid-September harvest days due to wet conditions. Light frosts in late September saved some top-killing costs but did very little or no damage.

Overall, crop yields follow the wild weather swings of the spring and summer, with many record high yields and a few fields that will probably not even be harvested. Many areas had too much rain earlier that created “holes” in fields but the balance of the field yielded well. There were a number of fields with reported yields over 500 cwt/acre.

These yields are a credit to the producers for having all the inputs in place and Mother Nature for cooperating with early heat and a warm summer—considering the provincial average has been 260–270 cwt/acre. Although harvest is not complete, we anticipate there will be enough processing potatoes to fulfill the processors’ contract volumes. The cool storage temperatures in early September allowed the producers who were harvesting to use plenty of air to condition the crop in storage and the storages are in very good condition.

Hopefully it will continue.

Upcoming conference and trade show:
January 26–27, 2011 Manitoba Potato Production Days
Keystone Centre Brandon, Man.


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