AgronomyEye On The Nation | Spud Smart | Fall 2013

Eye On The Nation | Spud Smart | Fall 2013

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Alberta

By Terence Hochstein, Executive Director
Potato Growers of Alberta

Following a growing season during which growers experienced many firsts in terms of weather conditions, Alberta potato producers harvested their 2013 crop with a mixed bag of results. Hail, wind, extreme heat and humidity, along with some late blight pressure, led to varying yields from grower to grower. While there have been some reports of harvest yields of up to 440 hundredweight per acre, yields of 300 hundredweight per acre have also been reported.

Lower than normal specific gravities in some cases and a small tuber profile are among the issues that Alberta growers and processors may have to deal with this winter. Overall, when everything’s in storage and the numbers are added up, it appears the crop will meet this year’s contract obligations, with a chance of having some overage to deal with.

The chipper harvest was completed about 10 days behind schedule, as most growers had to shut down each day by noon due to unseasonably high temperatures. Excellent yields have been reported by almost all growers.

For the most part, northern Alberta seed growers were able to finish harvest about a week ahead of their southern counterparts. Despite starting about a month later than the south, northern seed growers experienced ideal growing conditions over the course of the season and above-average yields in many cases. As a result, there will be a good supply of seed around for this upcoming growing season, and growers requiring seed should be able to demand seed that has high quality.

Alberta’s fresh potato market, although small in comparison to other areas in Canada, was able to realize a 10 per cent increase in acres this year. Yields look to be pleasantly high and quality is good.

Growing potatoes in Alberta continues to be successful, but with each passing year the challenges are becoming more diverse and the profitability margins are beginning to narrow.

Please join us at our upcoming 2013 Alberta Potato Conference and Trade Show, being held Nov. 19–21 at the Deerfoot Inn and Casino in Calgary, Alta. For more information, visit www.albertapotatoes.ca or contact the PGA office at 403-223-2262 or at [email protected]

Quebec

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

The 97th annual meeting of the Potato Association of America was held in Quebec City, Que., this past summer. The federation of Quebec potato growers was pleased to host this event, celebrating the 100th anniversary of this great organization. Staff at the host hotel in Quebec City, the Chateau Laurier, told us afterwards: “What a wonderful bunch of people it was!”

During the event, there were more than 135 presentations and poster exhibitions. The organizing committee was surprised to discover there was so much research about potatoes being conducted all over the world.

All of the visitors to the PAA annual meeting enjoyed the food, the entertainment, the Farm Day at Patates Dolbec in Saint-Ubalde, Que., and, of course, all the sights of the beautiful and historic Quebec City.

We noticed how much the PAA members care about their institution (after so many years, we can call the PAA an ‘institution’!).

The local organizing committee thinks, in the end, that the PAA annual meeting was a great success.

Manitoba

By Dan Sawatsky, Manager
Keystone Potato Producers Association

Growers in this province continue to invest in water management, both in irrigation and tile drainage. After a two-week delay in planting this spring and substantial spring rain in some growing areas, the drainage infrastructure limited the damage caused by excess moisture. The majority of the process acres were in by the end of May, with table and seed planting extending to mid-June.

Quick crop emergence and development has advanced the crop to a point where we are expecting a good average crop. Off-field deliveries to the processors are promising. More moderate temperatures and adequate moisture have been helpful. Early Russet Burbank harvest into storage is showing average to above-average yields. From a quality perspective, early indications show much improvement from last year.

With a 10 per cent reduction in contracted amount and flat contract values, Manitoba producers will welcome a return to normal yield and quality.

British Columbia

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

Up to mid-September, British Columbia had experienced generally favourable conditions for the 2013 potato crop. This applies to both planting and harvesting.

There were challenges for getting early potatoes planted in the spring. However, subsequent good weather resulted in an average yielding, high-quality crop of white potatoes that are sold fresh. Marketing of this crop occurred prior to the Russet potato price run-up experienced in the Pacific Northwest in the summer, and as a result our prices for specialty white potatoes were similar to other years.

The main potato crop of both coloured and Russet potatoes was planted under generally favourable conditions. Some weather events stretched planting out a bit more than desired, but by mid-August uniform stands of potatoes were evident in most of these affected areas.

Harvesting of coloured potatoes for fresh sales began Aug. 1. The harvested volume faced good demand from vendors. By the second week of September, the demand was less than the available volume of skin set potatoes, so harvesting geared up and potatoes began to enter into storages.

Hot weather in August affected yield, particularly for producers without irrigation capacity. Compared to other years, however, coloured potato yields are average to better than average. Growers are also reported to be more than pleased with the quality of coloured potatoes they are seeing going into storage.

British Columbia’s Russet potato harvest was just getting underway in earnest in mid-September. The crop yield and potato quality as described for coloured potatoes also applies to the Russet crop. Quality is reported to be very good, and going forward storage issues are not anticipated to be a factor.

Due to extended periods of high temperatures in growing areas in the U.S Pacific Northwest and Idaho, the market there is seeing a generally smaller crop profile. Following the Russet price run-up in the summer that has since abated, the U.S. new crop Russet packaging prices are now slightly improved compared to last year, and due to the supply situation, count size Russets are experiencing attractive pricing. This is helping set the tone for British Columbia Russet pricing.

Subject to continued favourable harvest conditions this fall, B.C. potato growers are expected to complete the growing season in good shape and in the coming months be poised to bring from storages high-quality potatoes for meeting customer requirements.

Prince Edward Island

By Gary Linkletter, Chairman
Prince Edward Island Potato Board

Prior to starting the main harvest, potato growers in Prince Edward Island had the opportunity to attend many field days to look at various potato research project plots and variety trials. While actual quantitative results will not be available until the winter months when all the numbers are crunched, there is nothing like seeing the plots in the field.

One of these events was the 4R Nutrient Stewardship Farm Tour, hosted by the Canadian Fertilizer Institute, the government of Prince Edward Island, the P.E.I. Federation of Agriculture, the P.E.I. Potato Board and the Kensington North Watersheds Association. It offered a first-hand look at what Island farmers and the fertilizer industry are doing to link environmental action and agricultural sustainability with improved fertilizer use.

Many potato-growing areas across North America are dealing with issues resulting from excess nitrates and phosphorous ending up in the water. The 4R Nutrient Stewardship program was established in co-operation with government, researchers, farmers and the public. The 4R approach ensures that nutrients are applied using the right source at the right rate, the right time and the right place through the adoption of best management practices by producers.

This tour was a chance for Island growers to see split field trials where changes in nutrient applications based on the 4R program were compared to the grower’s standard practice.  We are hopeful that the results of these trials and other research efforts supported by P.E.I. growers will keep us on the road to our goal of an economically and environmentally sustainable potato industry.