Bouncing back from a tough harvest

Bouncing back from a tough harvest

It’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish.

Late blight vigilance and management

Late blight vigilance and management

Management of late blight requires a multi-faceted approach by all stakeholders.

Scouting post-harvest diseases

Scouting post-harvest diseases

Predicting and minimizing post-harvest diseases in storage.

This article was republished from a 1999 article in Top Crop Manager.The basic principles of potato storage have not changed much over the years. The computer age has allowed growers to more precisely control their humidity and ventilation operations, but the need to minimize disease, cool the pile, reduce shrinkage and preserve the crop until shipment remains essentially the same.Every storage situation is different, according to John Walsh a former potato storage management specialist for the New Brunswick Department of Agriculture and now an agronomist with McCain Foods in Florenceville. However, he has a basic strategy that he shares with growers, which holds true for most situations: growers can adjust to suit their operation.“There could be 1000 management situations,” Walsh explains. “But we've developed a strategy for storage management that begins with evaluating the crop for rot potential. For example, if a grower sees late blight late in the growing season, a flag should go up. If soil is saturated for more than 24 hours, another flag goes up. If there is rain during harvest — another flag. If rot is seen during harvest, that's another flag. If there are no flags, the grower can go ahead and start curing the crop. If a grower only has one flag, only a couple days of drying will be needed. If there are two flags, a couple weeks of drying may be necessary. If there are three flags, it would be best to turn the humidifier off, turn the fans on, and leave them that way because it could take more than two months to dry the crop. In the end, a little extra shrink is better than potatoes flowing out the door!”The goal of all growers is to prevent rot from infecting the entire warehouse. Once taken care of, there are four steps to follow: curing, cooling, holding and removal of the crop from storage. If all are accomplished with no problems, a grower has completed the second stage of crop production, the first being the actual growing of the crop.The curing process helps heal wounds and set the skin on the tubers, reducing any opportunity for disease to infect them. Walsh says the curing process is slightly different depending on how the potato is to be used. In the case of processing potatoes, he says, a colour evaluation must be made first and then the curing process can begin. “Tablestock and seed can cure for two to three weeks at 50 degrees F, while chip and French fry potatoes should cure for three to six weeks at 55 degrees F,” he reminds growers. “Once curing is over, growers begin the cooling process by dropping the temperature two to three degrees a week for tablestock and seed, and one to two degrees a week for processing potatoes.”When cooling is complete, the potatoes are held at the recommended temperature for each type until delivery to processors or consumers. Processing potatoes may require warming to 55 degrees F for a few weeks before delivery to improve colour, otherwise the important thing is to maintain uniform conditions. Walsh says as long as rot is controlled, many problems facing growers will be manageable. However, he admits there is little growers can do to minimize the effects of rhizoctonia or silver scurf once they have infected the storage. He maintains growers need to concern themselves more with wet rots and dry rots because, with effective cooling, curing and holding, they can be minimized.Some products will help control dry rot, but they have limited use due to resistance to the control product. Ross McQueen, a potato pathologist in the Faculty of Agricultural and Food Sciences at the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg, says thiabendazole has been effective on dry rot, but resistance is beginning to appear in Western Canada. “We're currently working with chlorine dioxide to control secondary infections that come from late blight,” he says. In this trial method, “The chlorine dioxide is delivered through the humidity system.” He says the method shows promise because it reduces the populations of the bacteria that cause rots that result from late blight.Walsh recommends growers minimize dirt and mud going into storage as well as avoiding over-filling warehouses.Occasionally, growers try to fine-tune their storage operations to reduce disease by using multiple ventilation systems or opting for newer insulating materials, but the basic principle of good storage remains the same, says Walsh. “Work continues to develop expert systems to run the computers that manage the storage,” he says, “but the basics remain the best management system.”A grower who has developed his own expert system is Keith Kuhl of Southern Manitoba Potato Company of Winkler, Man. He says after trying a number of computer environmental control systems, including “a cumbersome program” from a technology company in the U.S., he met with a local electrical company and developed his own system. “Ours is a much simpler system than any others that are on the market,” he says. “We determine a long-term goal for each warehouse and the computer is adjusted to maintain temperature and humidity until the planned shipping date.”Kuhl says his company ships 12 months of the year and, as a result, his crop is managed with that in mind from the time it is planted. “In the cooling process, we know what our long-term plan is for that crop, so each bin may be treated differently depending on the market or delivery date.”However, despite an efficient, easy-to-use computer program, Kuhl relies on regular visual inspections using temperature probes and his nose to sniff out any problems. “A good manager should rely on his sensory perception,” he says. “If you detect sour smells, you know you might have some problems in that bin.” For damage control, he may use the chlorine dioxide product, Purogene, in his ventilation system, but he would prefer to eliminate potential problems before this step is needed. This product recently received an extension of its 'emergency use' registration until June 2000.Finally, the trick for successful storage is to never quit monitoring the warehouse. Take note of any 'flags' as the crop is being put into storage and adjust humidity and ventilation to minimize problems. Then, throughout the winter, maintain systems and monitor the crop to eliminate any surprises when the trucks start loading to take the crop to its final destination.Kuhl says he is always ready to adjust his plans. For example, if a problem is found in a field slated for 10 months of storage, he may decide to move those tubers out of storage earlier than he had planned. He also says he selectively harvests to reduce problems. If the season has been wet and low areas are still wet, he may choose not to harvest those areas. He might also harvest them separately and store them in a different bin where the curing/cooling process can be adjusted to meet the needs of those tubers. If he sees a higher percentage of culls in a field, he may monitor that crop more diligently when it is in storage. He suggests keeping good records at harvest, noting the conditions of harvest and the pulp temperature of the potatoes going into storage and recording any disease potential.“Storage management is like managing a completely separate crop,” says McQueen. “There are multiple factors growers need to take into account and manage the storage accordingly.” Savvy growers, like Kuhl, understand this concept and try to remain on their toes when their potatoes are in the bin although the basic storage principles remain the same.
2018 saw fewer problems with wireworm in Atlantic Canadian potato fields than past years, according to Christine Noronha, a research scientist for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada based in Prince Edward Island. But this doesn’t mean the problem has gone away.
It’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish – and this potato season is not over yet. Canadian potato producers endured a tough harvest season, especially Prairie and east coast producers who were faced with abnormally cold wet weather that delayed harvest until early November.
For potato growers, one of the most concerning and costly diseases is late blight, caused by the pathogen Phytophthora infestans. Estimated to cost almost $10 billion per year worldwide, late blight spreads by spores and can spread quickly in a field. Post-harvest losses can be substantial if infected tubers are harvested and stockpiled. Like other disease pathogens, new strains and novel genotypes of P. infestans have emerged over the past few years, creating new challenges for commercial potato growers.
Scouting and monitoring help reduce yield and quality losses and can save time and money. Diseases can manifest during the growing season, or at and after harvest, therefore scouting and monitoring can help identify diseases early in the cropping or storage cycle when it may still be possible to slow down or stop their spread. Regular scouting and monitoring of potato crops throughout the growing season and during storage are essential to good integrated pest management (IPM) programs.
A number of Ontario potato growers began noticing moist grey and brown lesions around wounds and the stem ends in their harvested potatoes in the fall – the first signs of Pythium leak. Measures to minimize the potential problem were initiated because, if the crop isn’t managed carefully as it is placed into storage, a season of hard work can be lost.
Overall potato production in Canada dropped by 2.6 per cent, according to the latest estimate from the United Potato Growers of Canada (UPG).
Lorraine MacKinnon, PEI potato industry coordinator with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries, says it’s not a nice position to be in now to start contemplating potential issues going forward with storage after a difficult harvest. MacKinnon created a checklist for producers to use during their daily warehouse visits that help identify symptoms of larger problems. Storage problems are better tackled sooner rather than later.
Prairie and east coast potato producers endured a prolonged harvest of excessive rain and cold temperatures. After a difficult harvest, it’s time to look ahead to the storage season.
Some areas of Canada did have a tough harvest due to cold, wet conditions resulting in these areas having lower than normal production, but there's no spud shortage yet, says Terence Hochstein, executive director of the Potato Growers of Alberta (PGA). 
When you think of China, do you think of potatoes? Maybe not, but in the Loess Plateau region of northwestern China, potato is the main food crop.
Ontario corn producers are dealing with high-DON (deoxynivalenol) in grain corn this year. High amounts of the mycotoxin are harmful to animals, so high-DON corn is unsuitable for feed and producers have limited end use options.
Eugenia Banks, Ontario potato specialist, attended a BASF meeting discussing several pesticides for potatoes will be coming through the pipeline for producers.
BASF Canada Inc. has been granted a new label expansion for Frontier Max herbicide for control of annual grasses and key broadleaf weeds in potatoes. In addition to its expanded label on potatoes, Frontier Max is also registered for use on corn, soybeans, dry beans, onions, cabbage and grapes.
Black cutworms were found in a number of fields near Delhi, Ont., on July 26, according to Eugenia Banks' latest potato update. 
Syngenta Canada Inc. has received registration for Revus fungicide as a potato seed treatment for the suppression of pink rot and control of seed‑borne late blight in potatoes. Pink rot is a devastating, soil-borne disease caused by the pathogen Phytophthora erythroseptica that thrives in wet, poorly drained soils. Infection typically takes place pre-harvest, as the pathogen enters tubers through the stem end and lenticels. Tubers infected with pink rot will often decay during harvest and handling, which allows the pathogen to spread quickly from infected tubers to healthy tubers while in storage. “Every field has the potential for pink rot,” says Brady Code, eastern technical lead with Syngenta Canada. “It takes a very small number of infected tubers going over harvest equipment or getting by on the belt to put an entire season of work in jeopardy, and leave growers with far fewer healthy potatoes to ship.” Revus contains the active ingredient mandipropamid (Group 40), and works by protecting the daughter tubers from becoming infected with pink rot. It also provides control of seed-borne late blight (Phytophthora infestans), according to a company press release.  Revus is applied at 5.9-11.8 mL per cwt of seed (13-26 mL/100 kg of seed). Following a seed treatment application of Revus fungicide, the first foliar fungicide application should be a product that does not contain a Group 40 active ingredient. Maximum Residue Limits (MRLs) for mandipropamid have been established for markets including Canada, the United States, Japan, and South Korea, in support of the seed treatment use pattern.
Although still in the early stages, this weed control solution is being designed as an advanced spot-spraying precision technology that will help farmers reduce input costs and add another management tool to their integrated management systems.
Bayer has announced the launch of Sencor STZ, a powerful and innovative new herbicide for broad-spectrum control of all major annual grass and broadleaf weeds in potatoes.
“Although potato psyllids have been known in the past to cause some damage themselves, the real concern is mainly from the bacterium, and we don’t have it in Canada yet. But if our potato psyllid population continues to increase – as it has done during 2013 to 2016 – and if it becomes more continuous with U.S. populations, and if tomato and potato plants (and tubers) are shipped more frequently, then it could arrive,” says Dan Johnson, an entomologist at the University of Lethbridge. | READ MORE
The Prairie Pest Monitoring Network (PPMN), now in its 20th year, continues to provide timely crop insect pest risk and forecasting tools for growers and the industry across Western Canada. As technology and forecasting tools advance, so does the ability of the network to provide relevant insect pest information related to scouting, identification and monitoring tools and information, plus links to provincial monitoring and support relevant to the Canadian Prairies. | READ MORE
  An Islander has heeded the call to mass manufacture a trap to fight P.E.I.'s wireworm pest.
Nov. 28, 2016, Prince Edward Island – Health Canada's proposal to phase out a pesticide over three years will have a significant impact on Island farmers looking to control the Colorado potato beetle, says the P.E.I. Potato Board. | READ MORE
As part of the regular review process, Health Canada has completed its re-evaluation of imidacloprid, and has published its draft risk assessment for public comment. The assessment proposes current use of imidacloprid is not sustainable, and the levels of this pesticide that are being found in waterways and aquatic environments are harmful to aquatic insects, such as mayflies and midges, which are important food sources for fish, birds and other animals. Concentrations of imidacloprid in surface water can range from non-detectable to, in some rare cases, levels as high as 11.9 parts per billion, according to Health Canada. Scientific evidence indicates levels above 0.041 parts per billion are a concern. To address the risks identified, Health Canada has published a proposed risk management plan for public comment, which includes a proposed three-year phase-out of agricultural uses of imidacloprid in order to address risks to aquatic insects. In some cases, where there are no alternative pest control products available, a longer phase-out transition period of five years is being proposed. In a press release, Health Canada said it is consulting on these proposed mitigation measures, and the final re-evaluation decision and risk management plan will take into consideration any comments received during the consultations.  The consultation phase includes a 90-day commentary period in addition to a multi-stakeholder forum that will discuss any proposals for potential alternative mitigation strategies that would achieve the same outcomes in a similar timeframe.  Any proposals for continued registration will need to clearly demonstrate concrete actions to ensure levels of imidacloprid in water will be reduced below the level of concern. Based on the findings of the re-evaluation assessment on imidacloprid, Health Canada is also launching special reviews for two other widely used neonicotinoids: clothianidin and thiamethoxam. These special reviews will examine any potential risks these pesticides may pose to aquatic invertebrates, including insects, as they are also being detected frequently in aquatic environments. In the press release, Health Canada said it will provide updates as new information becomes available.
Bayer has launched Velum Prime nematicide, the first non-fumigant nematicide registered for potatoes in Canada. Velum Prime is a new mode of action and chemical class (pyridinyl ethyl benzamide) for nematode protection. It offers growers effective nematode protection that helps sustain plant vigor and maximize crop yield potential, according to a press release.Recent trials of Velum Prime demonstrated consistent yield and quality increases and reduction in plant parasitic nematodes, including root lesion, root knot and potato cyst nematode. Velum Prime is applied in-furrow at planting. It comes in a liquid formulation that offers reliable efficacy at low application rates making it ideal for use with existing in-furrow application equipment. Applied in-furrow, Velum Prime offers the added benefit of early blight protection. Maximum residue limits for Velum Prime applied in-furrow are in place supporting trade in North America and Europe. Additional MRLs supporting trade in other key export countries, including Japan, are expected early in 2017. For more information regarding Velum Prime, growers are encouraged to talk to their local retailer or visit cropscience.bayer.ca/VelumPrime.
The impact of the difficult harvest on the industry will be felt across all sectors - seed, table stock and processing. Crop stress, reduced yields and unharvested acres will all contribute to a national decline in potato production.
A shortage of potatoes across Europe is pushing up the cost of crisps and chips for British shoppers.
Some businesses that need a steady supply of potatoes — like fresh-cut fry shacks — are having problems sourcing their key ingredient.
Potato farmers planted 347,416 acres of potatoes in 2018, an increase of 0.5 per cent from 2017, according to Statistics Canada's update on potato production.
Potatoes are eating up a growing slice of Alberta's agriculture sector. The province has about 21,500 hectares of farmland dedicated to potatoes and produced just over two billion pounds of spuds last year, putting the province third in the country behind Prince Edward Island (36,000 hectares) and Manitoba (27,235 hectares). With Cavendish Farms slated to open a new Lethbridge processing plant in 2019 — adding another 3,800 hectares — the potato industry is expecting another bump in growth in the coming years. | READ MORE
Interested in becoming a potato scout? The 2018 training of potato scouts will take place on June 4, 2018 at the Holiday Inn in Guelph, Ont., from 9:39 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Eugenia Banks will lead the session and a scouting manual and handouts will be provided. To register, please email Eugenia Banks at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . 
Robert Anderson and Jill Ebbett, fifth-generation potato farmers from East Glassville, N.B., were named Atlantic’s Outstanding Young Farmers for 2018.
A UPEI research project aimed at making potato farming more efficient has received funding from the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada. | READ MORE
Patates Dolbec, a family business created in 1967 based in Saint-Ubalde, Que., recently completed an expansion and modernization project through an investment under the Growing Forward 2 AgriInnovation Program. This project, supported with a federal government investment of up to $4.5 million, includes the purchase and installation of new robotic equipment that will sort, grade, and pack more fresh potatoes in less time, enabling the company to improve their product quality, lower operational costs and develop new markets in the United States. The company specializes in potato packaging and employs more than 125 people. The new plant is intended to give Patates Dolbec more flexibility and allows the company to track data in real-time for better decision making and a more organized workplace.   
Farm Management Canada and the Canadian Association of Diploma in Agriculture Programs are accepting submissions from agricultural students across Canada for the 2017-18 Excellence Award for Agricultural Students. Three winners will receive scholarships toward furthering their education in agriculture. The award is designed to help students develop their communication skills by having the opportunity to voice their opinion on a subject related to farm management. Students are asked to submit a multimedia presentation, a video, a Twitter chat, a blog or a Wiki, responding to the following question: What aspects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) should be addressed and amended in the current negotiations that will benefit Canada's agriculture sector? All applications must be received by May 6, 2018. More information can be found here.
The Canadian Agricultural Partnership was launched April 1, with the intent to chart the course for government investments in the sector over the next five years. The partnership aims to continue to help the sector grow trade, advance innovation while maintaining and strengthening public confidence in the food system, and increase its diversity, according to a press release from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada.Federal, provincial and territorial (FPT) governments have been working collaboratively since 2016 to develop the next agricultural policy framework, the Canadian Agricultural Partnership. FPT governments consulted with a wide range of stakeholders, including producers, processors, small and emerging sectors to ensure the partnership was focused on the issues that matter most to them.In addition, under the partnership, business risk management programs will continue to help producers manage significant risks that threaten the viability of their farm and are beyond their capacity to manage, the release states.Ministers of Agriculture will convene inVancouverthis July for the annual meeting of federal, provincial and territorial ministers of agriculture.
EU-funded scientists have discovered genetic markers that could allow potatoes to be selected for their ability to be stored at low temperatures, keeping them fresh and avoiding the use of anti-sprouting chemicals.

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