Phew. After incredible market upheaval from March through much of May, processing potatoes are finally moving again as fry processors restart their lines. COVID-19 has resulted in a very rough go for potato processors and farmers alike, but I’m really pleased to see some positive market trends slowly returning. That said, the two plus month backlog means farmers need to prepare for much longer-term potato storage than normal.
Even under the best-case scenario, farmers should anticipate delayed shipping as processors work through their full freezers before they resume normal production. Not all farmers will be lucky enough to ship, however, this spring’s unprecedentedly low fry sales means some farmer contracts have been cancelled and more may be at risk. Some seed growers may also be left holding unsold seed — early estimates suggest a 10 to 15 per cent reduction in acreage year-over-year.
As summer heats up, keeping a crop stable in storage is challenging even with air conditioning. The key to successful long-term storage starts with temperature stability — the more even the storage temperature, the less tubers will be stressed into sprouting. One option for storage not equipped with air conditioning is temporary portable refrigeration. While not as effective as a unit purpose-built for the job, portable refrigeration just might save your crop.
Crops fogged early in the storage season with chlorpropham (CIPC) may now be beginning to wake as the CIPC wears off. Keep an ultra-vigilant eye on your pile, watching constantly for peepers.
CIPC applied at this time of year is very risky as the pile is settling and fogging is unlikely to distribute effectively enough. Instead, transition to a DMN product (1,4SIGHT®), which is the best preventative treatment for sprouting at this time of year and carries no risk of internal sprouting. Any product applied this time of year should be applied with a fresh air applicator to reduce colour shift.
If peepers appear, be ready to act with a rescue product like 1,4ZAP®. While you may have successfully sold tubers with mild sprouting in the past, an uncertain ship date could translate to significant (and unsalable) sprouting. Keep in mind that processors have so much backlogged product available this year, they may be pickier than normal regarding sprouting and other faults.
With careful management, most farmers will successfully save and ultimately sell their stored crop. However, let’s all cross our fingers we never see a repeat of the spring of 2020!