AgronomyEye On the Nation

Eye On the Nation


Prince Edward Island

By Alex Docherty, Chairman, Prince Edward Island Potato Board

As of the beginning of March, we were in the middle of the 2014/2015 shipping season. Quality remained top-notch, processing use was up over last year, and demand for fresh use seemed to be picking up.

Post-harvest testing for the potato virus Y and potato leaf roll viruses in seed had been completed for the most part, with an approximately 90 per cent pass rate (90 per cent of samples submitted to the lab meeting the planting cap of three per cent or less total virus (PVY + PLRV). This is very encouraging and will contribute to a good start to the 2015 season.

Snow and storms were a big story on the East Coast during the month of February. The cold weather seen in January will mean a good level of frost in the ground, which should reduce the potential for volunteers and help to break up pest and disease cycles — another positive heading into the 2015 growing season.

As in most growing areas, it’s been a busy winter for grower meetings and training sessions. Some of the events that Island growers have had the opportunity to attend this past year include:

  • United Potato Growers of Canada 2015 Partners Seminar
  • Pesticide applicator training sessions
  • P.E.I. Potato Conference and Trade Show
  • P.E.I. Soil and Crop Improvement Association Conference
  • Atlantic Grains and Oilseeds Symposium
  • Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Accelerated Release Selections Open House
  • Atlantic Farm Mechanization Show
  • Canadian Horticultural Council Annual General Meeting

As well, P.E.I. Potato Board staff, growers and dealers attended the Canadian Restaurant and Food Service Show in March and will be attending the Canadian Produce Marketing Association Convention and Trade Show in April.

Environmental concerns and regulations remain high priorities for Island potato growers. The P.E.I. Potato Board continues to work with our provincial Department of Environment, Labour and Justice and our Department of Agriculture and Forestry to ensure that regulations are scientifically sound and reasonable and that growers have the information they need to ensure that they are operating with guidelines that protect the environment.

New Brunswick

By Louis Ouellette, Market Information Co-ordinator, Potatoes New Brunswick

The New Brunswick 2014 crop is storing very well with quality being excellent. The past year’s weather created some variability in yields between the northern and southern areas of the New Brunswick potato belt, but overall the province increased its average potato yield in 2014. The payables on the processing crop are slightly above average and there appear to be ample supplies to last through the processing season.

With many growers experiencing significantly higher yields than in an average season, New Brunswick does have more potatoes in storage compared to the five-year average. We still anticipate that these extra potatoes will find a home.

Fresh table potato quality continues to be between average to above average. Market demand is about normal on counts, but overall demand is slightly less than normal as increased inventories locally and internationally are having an impact. The current position of the Canadian currency is positive and should help move more potatoes in the near future.

Seed quality in New Brunswick is as good this year as it has ever been. The province’s seed potato industry continues to make positive strides in the management of potato virus Y. Just over 96 per cent of this year’s seed has tested below three per cent for PVY. New Brunswick seed producers continue to use some of the best management practices available, and it is rewarding to see the efforts of our growers in regard to the PVY results.

New Brunswick Seed Potato Day was held on Feb. 25 in Grand Falls, N.B. Growers and industry reps discussed ongoing seed potato issues in an effort to continue to make the New Brunswick industry a leader in the production of high-quality seed potatoes.

Potatoes New Brunswick held its annual Potato Conference and Trade show on Feb. 5, also in Grand Falls. A full slate of presenters spoke to a full crowd of growers and industry folks from New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Maine and Quebec.


By Clement Lalancette, General Manager, Federation des Producteurs de Pommes de Terre du Quebec

The Quebec potato growers association is taking part in a five-year project with Cintech Agroalimentaire to develop different ways to add value to potato residues as well as potato by-products. This project, which began in 2013, has seen Cintech identify different types of potato residue in terms of their characteristics, in order to find the best methods for adding value to the product.

Researchers are currently working on identifying what decontamination treatments are necessary to reduce contamination in the residues in order to enable their re-use. So far, there’s been a lot of testing to see if these residue products can be incorporated in some foods like soup and sauce, or if they can be used to produce industrial ingredients.

A small-scale research effort was put in place to evaluate the most promising projects. The potential of potato residues for use as a filler in some food items is interesting, particularly if you consider the popularity of gluten-free foods. For example, Cintech was able to replace 25 per cent of the content of a popular hummus brand in the market by using potato residues, without changing the taste.

The next step will be to conduct some kind of technical-economics study of different prototypes and to contact some potentials buyers to gauge interest in potato residues products. We are very enthusiastic about this project.


By Peter VanderZaag, Owner, Sunrise Potato Storage, and Eugenia Banks, OMAFRA Potato Specialist

Ontario has had a ‘real winter’ this year! Does that translate into people eating more potatoes to stay warm? The numbers show the movement of table stock movement off of Ontario farms over the last three months was actually down seven per cent from the same period the year previously. Chip stock movement, on the other hand, was up 11 per cent.

Prices and optimism are directly linked to the movement statistics. Prices for all contracted process potatoes were settled with either a slight increase or the same pricing that was established in 2014, with two-year pricing in place.

There have been some surprises in storage with breakdown. The effects of a wet 2014 growing season and the presence of late blight-infected tubers are the main causes for the breakdown. Going forward, we need to sharpen our focus on potato breeding and selection efforts on varieties with tuber resistance to late blight, at the very least. What will climate change bring us? Wetter growing conditions?

At the recent Potato Expo held in Orlando, Florida, Minna Pirhonnen from the University of Helsinki in Finland gave a presentation on two species of bacteria, Dickeya dianthicola and Dickeya  solani. While both Dickeya species have been causing blackleg and tuber soft rot in Europe, they are not the kind of blackleg-causing bacteria that growers are most familiar with, and nor are they easy to identify in the field.

The symptoms of blackleg caused by these two Dickeya species are also variable. Perhaps the most challenging characteristic of this new type of blackleg is the latent infection of tubers. Tubers that can appear healthy when checked following delivery could in fact be infected with Dickeya.

Potato growers should always be commended for being proactive and doing their best to avoid the introduction of new pathogens to their fields. Let’s keep an eye on Dickeya so that it stays away from Canadian potato fields.


By Desseri Ackerman, Manager, Saskatchewan Seed Potato Growers Association

The SSPGA held a well-attended, day-long workshop in February on various topics of concern to table and seed potato growers. Jill Thomson of the University of Saskatchewan spoke about how various types of diseases that potatoes can contract while in storage. Thomson brought in cultured samples and answered questions from growers, who shared their experiences and were provided with some helpful hints for identifying and preventing potential storage issues.

Doug Waterer of the University of Saskatchewan provided highlights on some recent potato variety work he’s performed and also spoke about the benefits of using foliar-applied 2,4-D to combat common scab. Joel Peru, an irrigation agrologist with the Saskatchewan Ministry of Agriculture, talked about the agronomy services provided by the ministry’s Crops and Irrigation Branch that are currently available to potato producers who currently irrigate. He also spoke about the steps required to install irrigation infrastructure.

It is estimated that potato growers account for about 25 per cent of foreign farm workers in Saskatchewan. The Saskatchewan Ministry of the Economy provided information to workshop attendees on the various programs available to producers for hiring foreign farm workers. Various options for both unskilled and management-level workers are available through both provincial and federal programs.

The event also featured Jazeem Wahab, an agronomist with the Canada-Saskatchewan Irrigation Diversification Centre, discussing production practices and the nutrient benefits of small potatoes. Several product reps were also on hand during the workshop to discuss their seed, fertilizer and disease treatment products.

Saskatchewan seed potato growers participated in an event called the Hawaii Post Harvest Test grow out. Overall, emergence was good to excellent and all samples tested virus free.

Members report that the winter has been busy for shipping stock and preparing for the spring planting season.

The SSPGA recently refreshed its website and online directory. The new site provided easier access to member information for those sourcing seed potatoes.


By Dan Sawatzky, General Manager, Keystone Potato Producers Association

Following challenging harvest conditions which resulted in some initial storage losses, the 2014 crop is keeping reasonably well. Crop movement is picking up pace from earlier levels with a small amount of open product remaining available for processing. Seed is beginning to see some movement as well with tighter supply anticipated in comparison to the previous year.

Manitoba potato growers are expected to have additional seed requirements this year with the return of some processing volume that had been removed over the past couple of years. Early and proprietary varietal volumes have been communicated to growers.

Contract negotiations are underway across Canada and United States with a lot of time and effort dedicated toward working out agreements that build and maintain stability on both sides of the table.

Manitoba Potato Production Days held at the end of January was well supported, with a record number of producers in attendance. With 75 exhibitors showcasing their products and services and industry providing valued sponsorship for a great line-up of speakers, the event continues to educate and inspire.

This year, the Manitoba United Potato Partners meeting will be combined with the Spring Production meeting to be held March 24. The Partners meeting highlights the contribution the United Potato groups have made in tracking market information that helps growers with their with production planning and marketing efforts. The spring production meeting provides a platform to report on research carried out over the previous year.

Meetings and planning are important components during the winter months for growers to continue to be prepared to adapt and improve in an ever-changing environment.

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