AgronomyEye On The Nation

Eye On The Nation

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New Brunswick

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

It was a very pleasant summer here in New Brunswick. A late spring got the crop into the ground about two weeks behind normal planting time, but almost ideal temperatures helped this year’s crop make up some much-needed time over the growing season.

As of mid-September, the northern part of New Brunswick’s potato belt had received adequate rain and many growers were expecting above-average yields with excellent quality. Producers in the southern areas of the potato belt saw little rain during August and were counting on some much-needed rain before harvest to help the potatoes during the important bulking stage. That being said, quality is expected to be very good for the 2014 crop.

Harvesting activities started in early August for chipping potatoes, with the remainder of the harvest scheduled to begin around mid-September.

Prince Edward Island

By Gary Linkletter, Chairman
Prince Edward Island Potato Board

While the winter months are traditionally planning season for the potato industry, the spring and summer of 2014 saw Island growers participating in the development of an updated strategic plan for the Prince Edward Island Potato Board.

The input sessions included face-to-face grower meetings as well as the solicitation of feedback using electronic communication methods. Although the focus was on getting grower feedback and input, dealers also had an opportunity to contribute their thoughts as information was gathered to set the direction going forward.

There will be no dramatic change in the direction of the potato board, but outside influences and production technology do change over the years and this influences the direction of board activities somewhat. Under consideration is an increased focus on finding ways we can make changes in production, transportation and marketing to help the P.E.I. potato industry be more competitive and increase margins for growers, responding to new disease and insect pest pressures, and adapting to new market demands and consumer preferences. The new strategic plan will be presented for grower approval at the board’s annual general meeting in November.

As we enter another winter marketing and planning season, communication with growers to share market information, with government to develop programs and policies that help the industry, and with the general public to share factual production and economic information will continue to be key parts of the P.E.I. Potato Board’s strategy going forward.

Quebec

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

In general, we had good weather conditions this past summer except for some drought conditions in a few areas. The eastern part of the province was particularly affected with low precipitation in July and August.

An estimated 44,250 acres of potato were planted this year in Quebec, about the same acreage as 2013. Generally, we anticipate average yields that are similar to last year. However, yields may be lower in those areas that experienced a drought period or where potatoes had not been irrigated. Also, for many varieties we could see fewer tubers per plant this year than normal.

As of mid-September, quality seems good with very few internal defects like brown heart and hollow heart. Common scab has been observed regularly with different intensity levels.

Ontario

By Peter VanderZaag
Owner, Sunrise Potato

The summer of 2014 was a cool and wet for most Ontario potato-growing areas, providing ideal growing conditions for potatoes. The crop grew and matured naturally and yields are excellent. Late blight was a concern in the latter part of the growing season but an extensive spray program provided near perfect control. Market demand for fresh potatoes remains good. As of mid-September, harvesting was progressing well, with favourable harvesting conditions.

The 2014 Ontario Potato Field was held Aug. 21st in Alliston, Ont. This event was hosted by HJV Equipment and was organized by Eugenia Banks, potato specialist with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs. The approximately 300 attendees — growers, crop consultants and potato industry people — had the opportunity to get acquainted with innovative potato equipment such as Spudnik’s AirSep Harvester as well as with a large number of new potato varieties grown in nearby plots in commercial fields.

Networking among the field day attendees created a vibrant and friendly atmosphere that, along with favourable weather, contributed to the success of this annual event. We are most fortunate to have such passionate potato specialist in Eugenia Banks, who makes these events so worthwhile.

Manitoba

By Dan Sawatsky, General Manager
Keystone Potato Producers Association

Comments vary when growers are asked about crop expectations this year. Although the crop was planted on average two weeks behind normal planting dates, ideal temperatures allowed the crop to advance quickly.

Test digs are showing a high tuber set with uniform growth. Little rainfall in July and through the first half of August kept the irrigation equipment busy. The processing acreage was fully irrigated while the fresh side of the industry lagged behind.

The summer dry spell ended in mid-August with some areas receiving up to seven inches  of rain during the third week of that month, which has resulted in some minor losses. Rain continued into early September.

There was a setback for some producers who rely on water pumped from the Assiniboine River in July when a major rainfall event upstream in Saskatchewan caused the river to overflow its banks, inundating irrigation pumps and equipment. Growers had to scramble and improvise to supply water at a time when crop water demand was high.

Transition into new crop for Simplot and McCain Foods occurred on Aug. 18 and 24. Early direct delivery product was as varied as producer’s expectations, with some fields yielding well with surprising tuber size and others where the yield was down with a smaller tuber profile.

Continual rain has contributed to a challenging start for new season deliveries. The main Russet Burbank storage crop will require more time and drier weather to realize its potential.

The industry in Manitoba continues to invest in research targeted at increasing yield and quality. The potato research field day held Aug. 14 at the Canada-Manitoba Crop Diversification Centre in Carberry, Man., highlighted initiatives involving fertility and water usage. Growing interest in variable rate irrigation has also prompted research in that area.

Planning has begun for the 2015 Manitoba Potato Production Days Conference to be held Jan. 26 to 28, in Brandon, Man. More information is available at mbpotatodays.ca.

British Columbia

By Tom Demma, General Manager
BC Vegetable Marketing Commission

All eyes are on British Columbia’s main potato crop and the various potato varieties which, when harvested, will enter into storage for selling later in the marketing year.

The weather throughout the growing season has been remarkably conducive to crop development. Daytime temperatures were steadily warm, but with few overly hot days. By mid-September, any hint of fall weather had yet to appear, so those farmers beginning the storage potato harvest were working in ideal conditions. The memory of 2010’s excess moisture event is still prevalent in everyone’s mind and is something no one wishes to see again.

The yield for early-crop potatoes fell within the normal range this year. There are similar expectations for the main storage crop that mostly had yet to be harvested by mid-September. There is no talk of a bumper crop; however, growers are optimistic as tuber size and quality of early crop potatoes was good and this is expected to be the case for the main storage crop. The quality of table stock potatoes is also shaping up to be excellent.

The potato pricing picture in British Columbia remains unclear due to the potato supply and market situation in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. It’s a similar situation for most other producers in Western Canada and the United States, who face the fundamental and as yet the unanswerable question as to what the marketing season will bring in the way of returns. Everyone’s focus at present is on harvesting and maintaining quality in storage.

Alberta

By Terence Hochstein,
Executive Director
Potato Growers of Alberta

In many areas, Alberta’s start to September looked like a mid-December blizzard. Some parts of the province received up to 12 inches of the white stuff and experienced temperatures as cold as -9 C. Fortunately, this was short-lived and most of the potato acres remained unscathed.

Our growing season has been all over the map this year: a late start, some catch-up, and then virtually no moisture for those areas with no irrigation. Late August brought a lot of rain to the south and it just kept coming.

As of mid-September, harvest was looking to be long and drawn out, with a whole lot of waiting in between some very frustrating harvest days. Overall, we are looking at an average yield for the processing areas, albeit that could change depending on how many acres that may have to be abandoned due to the excessive moisture conditions.

Our seed volume looks to be down this year as well due to the early dry conditions. Only time will tell as to what our numbers will look like come the finish of harvest.

Fall brings the start of meeting and conference season. Alberta growers will once again host the 48th annual Alberta Potato Conference and Trade Show in Red Deer, Alta., from Nov. 18 to 20.. Plan on joining us for  three days of information and networking with potato industry representatives from across the country. For more information, visit albertapotatoes.ca or contact the PGA office at 403-223-2262.

Saskatchewan

By Desseri Ackerman,
Manager, Saskatchewan Seed Potato Growers Association

The Saskatchewan Seed Potato Growers Association held its semi-annual general meeting Aug. 19. Regional Canadian Food Inspection Agency representatives addressed several concerns that SSPGA members had about the Canadian government’s Seed Potato Tuber Quality Management Program and potato cyst nematode testing. While clarity was provided, concern remains that the testing requirements will burden Saskatchewan producers given the large acreages that they typically manage.

Members also discussed their concern about the removal of Thimet from the market without available viable alternatives for controlling wireworm. Jeremy German, a senior agrologist with G-Mac’s AgTeam Inc., updated growers on their new agronomic services available to potato producers.

As of mid-September, producers were reporting excellent tuber quality but yields were down from last year’s bumper crop. It appears that there will be an average yield this year.

The SSPGA will hold its annual general meeting and conference in Saskatoon on Nov. 27. Guest speakers and a trade show are planned.

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