Canadian potato producers are among the very most skilled and proactive potato growers in the world. They’ve perfected potato management through every stage of the growing season to optimize quality and yield. However, many – probably most – don’t commit the same level of care and attention through the storage season. Yes, potatoes are dormant through most of storage. However, that doesn’t mean that tubers are doing nothing over the cold months of winter. In fact, the complex physiological processes that occur during storage – all of which can be influenced by careful management – have a huge impact on a crop’s quality and yield at the end of the storage season.
In my conversations with producers, I meet three kinds of stored crop managers.
The first sees sprouting as little more than a relatively minor inconvenience. These producers chit when necessary and are content so long as sprouts fall within the 1.5 inches accepted by processors. They’re losing yield and missing out on quality bonuses but may not even realise it.
The second kind of producer sees sprouting as an unfortunate inevitability. They know sprouting costs salable weight and they’re frustrated if it costs them quality bonuses too, but “that’s just the way it is and the way it’s always been,” they tell me.
The third kind of producer is – to put it bluntly – making the most money. These producers take a proactive approach to storage, carefully managing and investing to ensure their stored crop maintains both quality and weight from in-loading through shipping. By combining tried-and-true methods – good temperature management, well maintained air supply systems, and careful monitoring – with today’s improved dormancy enhancers and rescue products, these producers optimize dormancy, manage sprouting, and capture every possible dollar from their stored crop.
I truly believe that if we could pull storage off the backburner and invest thought into it the way producers pour effort into the growing season, far more dollars would land in producers’ pockets. The best Canadian potato producers already treat storage as a critical, hands-on ‘season’, as important as the growing season. I hope that the entire industry comes to follow their lead.