AgronomyEye On The Nation

Eye On The Nation

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British Columbia

Tom Demma, General Manager
B.C. Vegetable Marketing Commission

British Columbia’s total planted area for 2012 is 6,700 acres with 5,600 and 1,100 acres for fresh marketing and seed potato end use, respectively. These values are not much different when compared to 2011.

The weather experienced in B.C. during the potato season, from seeding to harvest, held many extreme events for the Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island growing areas, and this influenced the outcome of both the B.C. tablestock and seed potato crops. In the spring there was an extended period of cool, wet weather that made seeding challenging both in terms of its completion and germination. With the return of warmer weather, the potato main crop moved ahead to where crop maturity came on pace with customary crop development patterns.

The early nugget crop was seeded at the customary time; however, conditions for doing so were less than ideal. The return of warmer weather in mid-June resulted in a good nugget potato crop in terms of volume and quality. Marketing of white nugget potatoes was completed by mid-July, followed by the marketing of other white potato varieties typically not sold as nuggets.

The Fraser Valley and Vancouver Island growing areas experienced a prolonged dry spell, accompanied by periodically higher than normal daytime temperatures, beginning in mid-July and extending into late September. As a result, the main crop reached maturity and harvesting commenced earlier than normal.

Overall, the 2012 B.C. potato crop is rated average volume-wise without much year-over-year variation in yields for the customary range of potato varieties grown in the province. The 2012 seed potato crop, which had similar acreage compared to 2011, saw harvest completed by the second week of October. Yields for all varieties are considered normal and quality is rated as excellent.

By mid-October, harvest of the potato main crop was virtually complete and those few unharvested acres held late-maturing varieties that needed more days due to late seeding. The B.C. main storage crop entered into storage in excellent condition and in the coming months a good supply of high-quality red, yellow and russet potatoes will be available.

Manitoba

Garry Sloik, Manager
Keystone Potato Producers’ Association

The year 2012 will go down as the year that separated the “irrigators” from the “drought-proofers”—producers that had sufficient water to raise a crop using irrigation versus producers that supplemented rainfall with enough irrigation to avoid a 1988- or 1989-level drought.

The production year started out well with dry, workable soil corner-to-corner on all fields that led to the earliest planted crop in memory. However, those conditions were largely due to low or no snowfall that left very dry sub-soils that needed irrigation early and often. The lack of snow also drastically reduced any run-off water to fill many of the retention ponds used for irrigation. The combination of low rainfalls (about 60 per cent the normal rate for Portage la Prairie, Man.) and warmer than normal weather conditions meant the crop’s water demand was significantly higher than normal and more than some irrigation systems could accommodate.

The result will be large yield and quality differences from area to area and even field to field. In general, the yield and quality of Ranger Russets, Umatilla Russets and Innovators will be higher than Russet Burbanks.

As producers’ thoughts have strayed toward drainage and tile drainage during the past few winters, we fully expect increased irrigation will be a major focus for the winter of 2012/13.

Prince Edward Island

Gary Linkletter, Chair
P.E.I. Potato Board

From a production point of view on Prince Edward Island, the weather has been the number one story of the year. Rainfall was extremely variable and in short supply during July and August, while in September and October, excessive rainfall meant that some potatoes were left in the field and harvest progressed at a slow pace. As fall Spud Smart goes to press, we are hoping for a stretch of clear days in the second half of October to get the crop in the warehouse.

Yield on the early crop was somewhat disappointing due to the dry conditions this summer, and yield of maincrop varieties was variable across the province depending on local weather conditions. As we move from harvest to shipping season, our attention will turn to marketing the crop at a profit. This will be another challenge to face this year, due to the acreage increase and resulting large crop in the United States.

P.E.I. potatoes have already been moving onto the export market into the United States, Ontario and Quebec. The marketing season will kick off in November with P.E.I.’s annual presence at the Royal Winter Fair in Toronto. We will be launching our updated website and continuing in our work to engage consumers in our online activities, through Facebook, Twitter and Youtube, and the operation of our “Pack Your Appetite” online contest to win a vacation for four to P.E.I.

The Annual General Meeting of the P.E.I. Potato Board will take place on November 16, 2012 in Charlottetown. Growers will be provided with reports on Board activities, U.S. and Canadian production estimates and marketing updates.

New Brunswick

Joe Brennan, Chairman
Potatoes New Brunswick

The 2012 growing season in New Brunswick was generally very dry. The last week of June saw significant rainfall in the Saint John River Valley, the province’s “potato belt.” Some areas received up to 10 inches of rain that week. Throughout July and August, it was very dry and warmer than normal. Rainfall was extremely variable, with the central area, from Hartland to Perth Andover, being the driest. Areas to the north and south received more showers and have consequently harvested better crops. The dry weather resulted in very little late blight disease pressure this year, a huge relief following the very wet season of 2011.

Harvest got underway a bit later than usual as growers tried to squeeze a bit more yield from the fields, particularly in the central region, where the lack of rainfall hampered bulking. However, since the beginning of October, the weather has changed! We have had several frosts and some very wet weather. On October 14 we had our first snowfall of the season—but it’s not time for that. Harvesting is approximately 75 per cent complete, with some growers finished while others with later processing varieties have significant acres still in the ground. Yields have been as variable as the rainfall. Areas that “caught” rain at critical times are experiencing very good yields, while others are getting significantly smaller yields.

There have been no quality problems to date as a drier season generally means fewer quality/storage problems than in a wet season. Overall, I expect we will have a lower-than-average crop to market this year. The market is under the same pressure that exists across North America, but at this time, growers are focusing on getting this crop under cover.