Though farmers are used to dealing with uncertainty, the start of this year’s growing season is testing the patience and stress levels of even the most experienced farmers among us.
Where I’m at in Portage La Prairie, Man. we sat (or swam) at nearly 600 per cent of normal precipitation back a few weeks ago. Our applicator sent a photo of his farm south of Winnipeg at Morris, Man., his house and yard looked like an island in the middle of a lake. Manitoba isn’t alone in facing extremes: southern Alberta was – until just recently – incredibly dry; Ontario and the Maritimes have faced unusual heat; B.C. has been unseasonably cool. Moisture extremes in U.S. potato country have already significantly bitten into American production.
Russia’s invasion of Ukraine adds another layer of uncertainty to the agriculture industry. Though Ukraine isn’t a big potato exporter, it’s the world’s largest producer of sunflowers. Uncertainty about sunflower oil supply is already making french fry processors very nervous and could cause processing challenges — which could cause ripple effects right back to producers as soon as (this fall?). Russia is also at least partially to blame for sky high fertilizer and gas prices, which are jacking up the costs and hollowing out the profitability of every step of production and processing.
I wish I had great advice or assurances that the weather and global political issues will improve. Here’s what I do know:
A smaller and lower quality crop than normal – basically a certainty at this point – means there should be a strong market for every available potato, especially top-quality potatoes. So, producers will want to do everything they can to protect every spud via extra careful in-crop management and exceptional storage management.
Potato tubers are a summary of their parent plant’s growing experience. Any stress that potato plants experience throughout the growing season translates to less storable, faster-to-sprout, more disease- and decay-prone tubers. If you’ve never tried a dormancy enhancing product in storage before, this might be the year to consider adding 1,4SIGHT or 1,4SEED (for use in seedstock) to your storage management system. 1,4SIGHT and 1,4SEED are fully reversible, naturally-occurring dormancy enhancers that slow moisture loss, reducing shrink and pressure bruise, and allowing tubers to store their energy rather than using it up through early sprouting.
Best of luck to you this season, and may Mother Nature play along!