AgronomyEye On The Nation

Eye On The Nation

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New Brunswick

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

The 2014 fall harvest in New Brunswick took place under almost perfect weather conditions, with late September and early October offering ideal conditions for digging. The main harvest started the week of Sept. 22, and there was frost on some fields that week that resulted in reduced yields on affected farms as well as some plants shutting down a little earlier than anticipated. Harvest was completed by the third week of October, and as of mid-December there were no reports of any storage issues.

The 2014 potato crop in New Brunswick is similar to the 2012 crop in terms of quality. All regions are reporting very good quality, and yields in the province range from slightly below average to very good.

Many growers in the more northern regions of New Brunswick have seen close to record yields along with very good quality. Growers in the southern growing areas experienced a very dry August and September; they have seen lower yields but the crop quality is excellent. Potatoes that have gone to the province’s processing plants are showing very good quality attributes and payables.

New Brunswick’s seed potato sector has had another very successful year, with favourable potato virus Y results to date. Today’s seed producers meticulously monitor their fields and use the best possible management practices to ensure the cleanest possible seed for the province’s seed potato customers.

Mark Feb. 5 on your calendars for the annual Potatoes New Brunswick Potato Conference and Trade Show. For more details call 506-473-3036 or visit potatoesnb.com.

Quebec

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

What do the consumers of Quebec potatoes want? This one of the questions asked in a recent market study conducted for the province’s potato growers and packers.

The firm Marcon was hired to carry out the extensive market research project. The purpose of the study was to provide a better understanding of consumer perceptions and buying habits regarding potatoes.

The research used both quantitative and qualitative tools and was conducted in-store while consumers were purchasing potatoes. Some of the most interesting and useful conclusions were as follows:

  • The information on potato packaging was found to be not very useful, except with regard to the main uses for potatoes
  • Potatoes are still perceived by some consumers as high in calories
  • There is a lot of confusion and perceived weaknesses in the way potatoes are marketed

We are still in the process of extracting information from the research and plan to present the main conclusions to the industry as well as potato distributors at a later date. A video of consumers participating in the market survey while they were buying potatoes, will be made available as well.

Ontario

By Peter VanderZaag, Owner, Sunrise Potato Storage

The 2014 potato crop is in storage across the potato growing areas of the province. Inventory levels are similar to last year, and quality appears good to excellent. As of mid-December, there were only a few problem spots in storage bins. Demand is good, and the downturn in energy costs bodes well for growers as potato production costs should decrease in 2015.

The Vineland Research Innovation Centre in Vineland Station, Ont., recently held some strategic planning sessions that included determining research priorities for potatoes. The following were identified as key research topics that require attention:

  • Developing breeding programs that consider disease resistance, low nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium requirements, and drought tolerance as priority traits
  • Developing strategies to improve soil health; for example, evaluating cover crops, green manures, soil amendments, etc.
  • Improving strategies for post-harvest management, including organic alternatives for sprout control and management of pressure bruises and/or post-harvest disease
  • Improving water use efficiency through such means as timing and irrigation technology

Another growers’ activity for the winter months is updating the Ontario Potato Crop Profile. This is part of the National Crop Profile that provides baseline information on crop production and pest management practices and documents pest management issues faced by growers each year. The National Crop profiles are developed under the Pesticide Risk Reduction Program, a joint program of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the Pest Management Regulatory Agency.

The Ontario Potato Conference will be held March 5, 2015 at the Delta Hotel in Guelph, Ont. Plan to attend this informative learning occasion! Contact Ontario potato specialist Eugenia Banks at [email protected] for more information.

Manitoba

By Dan Sawatzky, General Manager, Keystone Potato Producers Association

Overall results for the 2014 potato crop turned out better than expected, thanks in part to the long fall season that allowed growers to continue harvesting well into October. Although planting was delayed by about two weeks by cold, wet conditions in the spring, ideal temperatures during the growing season helped advance the crop.

Irrigation needs were fairly constant throughout July and the first two weeks of August, until fall rains began putting some of the crop in jeopardy.

For most Manitoba producers, the harvest was one of the most challenging on record. Although the target for bringing the crop in is usually Oct. 1, many acres were harvested beyond that date and well into the third week of the month. Some fields were left rotting in the ground due to the excessive fall rains, although the southern part of the province faired much better in this respect.

Production of table stock potatoes was strong with excellent yields and quality.

Processing potato yields were generally above average for the 2014 crop, with yields similar in range to that of 2013. Quality is off due to the wet harvest conditions. Pink eye symptoms are once again a challenge in some regions.

The needs of processors should be fully met, with some surplus, which will more than balance contract shortages. Processing usage is down from the five-year average, although run time has been steady.

The usual winter planning and meeting season bring with it thoughts of improvement and change to prepare for the ongoing challenges growers experience.

Saskatchewan

By Desseri Ackerman, Manager, Saskatchewan Seed Potato Growers Association

The Saskatchewan Seed Potato Growers Association held its annual general meeting on Nov. 27. While turnout was low, there was good discussion and networking with new members.

AGM attendees learned about various funding programs offered by the Saskatchewan government, and also heard from Joel Vanderschaaf about potato seed development work that he and his family are doing. According to Vanderschaaf, there are many advantages to potato seed, but only select varieties are able to produce seed berries. Work by the Vanderschaaf family to ensure consistent count, size and colour is on track to move into commercial levels in the near future.

Weather conditions this past growing season in Saskatchewan were certainly poor for potato production. However, AGM attendees reported that overall, seed potato quality was good and that yields were average to slightly below average.

SSPGA is planning to hold a full day of workshop sessions in early February. This event will be organized in conjunction with February being designated national potato month.

A speaker on Canada’s Seasonal Agricultural Workers Program will be invited to attend, which should be of interest to growers since Saskatchewan potato producers employ 25 per cent of all foreign farm workers in the province.

Topics of other sessions will include potato agronomy, updates on potato production equipment, an update from the Canadian Food Inspection Agency on its quality analysis program, and hands-on soil-related assessments. Event details can be found at sspga.ca.

Alberta

By Terence Hochstein, Executive Director, Potato Growers of Alberta

With our 48th annual Alberta Potato Conference and Trade Show behind us, we are now in the planning stages for the 2015 event to be held Nov. 17 to 19 at the Sheraton Hotel in Red Deer, Alta. The Potato Growers of Alberta are working on adding another dynamic group of speakers as well as expanding our trade show and our always-popular Ladies Program” at the event. As well, we continue to work towards marking 2016 as the 50th anniversary of the PGA.

Alberta’s harvest turned out to be one of the longest and most trying in many growers’ memories. The norm for the day was pulling our trucks and harvesters out of the mud. In the end the growers persevered, and with Mother Nature’s co-operation the harvest was completed about three weeks behind schedule.

Overall yields were better than expected, but our growers are dealing with lower than normal specific gravity and a smaller than normal size profile. All things considered, we still have a very marketable crop sitting in storage.

Our seed growers are indicating that they are storing one of their best ever seed crops. The quality is excellent and as of mid-December there were very few storage issues to report.

Following last summer’s announcement that an Industrial Chair in Potato Research will be established at the University of Lethbridge, the U of L along with PGA, Cavendish Farms, McCain Foods and Lamb Weston are embarking on a first of its kind, industry-led program for potatoes.

We look forward to having a program lead in place in early 2015 and having the program up and running by the fall of 2015. This program will not only allow Alberta students to get an education in potato science close to home, but will also give the processing industry an opportunity to have students graduate with the disciplines that are required within the processing industry.

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