Weather Driving Canadian Potato Crop Outlook

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Seed potatoes are dug up on Hoogland Farms in Millet, Alta. Photo: Jake Hoogland

Weather patterns are currently the main influence on the outlook for the Canadian potato crop, the September 6 crop update from the United Potato Growers of Canada says.

Eastern Canada, specifically Prince Edward Island, has received record amounts of rainfall from the remnants of Hurricane Ida. In Manitoba, they also received rain over the past two weeks, the report notes. While the high temperatures have eased in Alberta, it remains dry. The heat has also weakened in Quebec.

“Thoughts on growers’ minds, include hopes that any potential early frosts hold off and allow the crop to finish up. Most areas will not see harvest reach full capacity until the third week of September,” the update says.

Prince Edward Island

Potato fields throughout the Island received anywhere from 80 mm to 150 mm during a 24 hour period as the remnants of Hurricane Ida hit the area. The update notes just one day before the rain hit, the crop was beginning to look dry in some areas which hadn’t received significant rainfall amounts in August.

“This rainfall event has greatly improved the outlook for long season varieties such as Russet Burbanks. Growers will likely need to monitor any unwanted side effects of this rainfall dump, but to date quality has looked excellent with no off types or defects.”

Early harvest has been promising, with some fields yields at 50 to 100 cwt above last year’s poor yields, the update says. Old crop for table potatoes is winding down with pricing still good. Old crop for processing is expected to be done by Sept. 7 to 15, with factories then moving into new crop.

New Brunswick

New Brunswick didn’t receive large amounts of rain from Hurricane Ida, the update says. The week before the hurricane the area received 1.5 inches, which should carry the potato crop into maturity.

Early harvest of chipping potatoes has been promising so far, with yields above average being reported. The chip contract with Old Dutch was settled two weeks ago with a two-year contract, with increases both years.

Early harvest of Shepody and Caribou Russets have also produced high yields. French fry companies are still showing interest in purchasing open potatoes to meet capacity needs in other regions due to hot, dry weather, the update notes.

Quebec

The excessive summer heat broke with potato fields receiving an inch of rain, the update says. However, some areas only received seven to eight millimetres.

“The Russet crop has been stressed with plants falling down in the heat, so the reprieve may be too late for those fields,” the update notes.

Early harvest has been good so far, with high yields and good quality being reported. Overall yields are expected to be higher than last year, but the size profile will be smaller, the update says.

“Marketers in Quebec are finding movement a little slow, likely due to a hot summer for cooking, and the need to take vacations after being couped up with COVID-19 restrictions. Dealers are talking with banners on product ads and look forward to the return to school cycle of normality.”

Both french fry processors and chip companies have settled their contracts for this growing season, and in some cases next, with increases happening.

Ontario

Ontario growers are expecting to harvest a good crop, the update says. Some irrigation systems were shut off earlier this year, as natural rainfall was abundant throughout the season. Quality is looking good on most varieties.

“Growers are looking forward to the cooler temperatures which will allow safe storage for that part of the harvest.”

Early table harvest has been going well, with good quality and yields being reported. It is expected potato demand will pick up as vacations end and school schedules start, the update notes.

Chip potato harvest is happening with good yields reported. Some chip producers are going to start spuds going into storage, which is almost 10 days ahead of schedule.

Manitoba

Fresh potato growing regions have struggled this season, as many non-irrigated acres have been dry, the update says. The Winkler area has received four inches of rain over the last few weeks, but it’s too late for most of the crop. Yield predictions have the crop at two thirds of normal.

There have been few reports of shipping happening yet. Some yellow potatoes from irrigated group have been marketed though, with good yields being reported. Table potatoes in the Red River Valley, south of the United States border, have also received similar rains lately, which the update notes will help put some weight on the later fields to be harvested.

Processing potatoes, specifically Russets, have been struggling to keep up with the hot dry season. Some early harvest has been done, mainly on Rangers.

“Growers would prefer to wait a little longer to see if they can achieve a better yield per acre in the out of field deliveries. Long season varieties such as Russet Burbank have been particularly stressed from the heat of the season.”

Saskatchewan

Despite the hot, dry growing season, the crop is generally look good, the update says. The success is mainly due to a good irrigation source with access to lots of water throughout the growing season. Most of the seed crop has been top killed, with harvest ready to start.

Alberta

While the Alberta crop may look good from a distance with tall green vines, continued hot temperatures throughout the growing season have greatly affected yields. Early harvested Rangers have been disappointing with yields in the 10 to 11 tons per acre range, the update says. Ten-foot strips in Russet Burbanks are pointing towards yields of 13 to 15 tons per acre.

“Processing demand is strong, and all three fry plants of McCain, Lamb-Weston, and Cavendish Farms are running new crop. Chip yields seem to be satisfactory for those growers, as well as for those producing baby creamers for the fresh market.”

The seed crop is variable, depending on if the area received rain or not. The update notes the Lacombe area seems to be one of the better regions, having received more moisture than others.

Growers across the province are anxious for their crop to finish bulking before the main harvest starts on Sept. 20, the update says.

British Columbia

The growing season been particularly hot. The potato crop looks good overall, but there aren’t many large sized potatoes.

“Recent variety trial field days show many plants with a higher set, but a smaller size profile,” the update says.

The update note many growers require four weeks of skin set on red and yellow varieties, so main harvest should be going by Sept. 20.

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