Agronomy

Ontario's hot weather keeps late blight in check but some growers are seeing sunburnt stems and heat stress in their potato crop. 
The Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) completed its re-evaluation of mancozeb and found the continued registration of products containing mancozeb acceptable for foliar application to potatoes in Canada.
The results from Ontario spore traps, in Alliston, Leamington, Simcoe-Delhi, and Shelburne areas, returned negative detecting no late blight spores, according to Eugenia Banks’ latest potato update.
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researchers in Fredericton, N.B. are exploring environmentally friendly solutions to manage Potato Early Dying complex (PED), a disease that is limiting yields in many potato fields in eastern Canada. PED is a disease complex caused by a combination of a fungal disease (Verticillium wilt) and root-lesion nematodes. With few available treatments, a process called biofumigation is being used by some growers to manage PED. The process involves tilling mustard plants into the soil at a specific stage of growth with enough heat and moisture in the ground to induce a chemical breakdown of the plant material. “As the mustard decomposes, it releases a chemical that reduces Verticillium wilt pathogens without adverse effects on the environment,” explains Dahu Chen, AAFC plant pathologist at the Fredericton Research and Development Centre. As a side-effect, mustard biofumigation also delivers green compost into the soil, improving soil health. There is some evidence that the severity of PED symptoms is reduced in healthy soils. “The disease has been around for a long time, but it is now identified to be a major factor limiting tuber yield in New Brunswick,” says Chen, who is studying the problem with colleague, AAFC researcher Bernie Zebarth. “The pathogen can survive in the soil for a long time, even through the harshest winter conditions of eastern Canada,” explains Chen. Chen and Zebarth are now working with industry partners, including Potatoes NB and McCain Foods Canada, to determine the effectiveness of mustard biofumigation through trials in commercial fields. In addition, crop rotations that reduce the severity of PED symptoms are being examined in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island by Potatoes NB, McCain Foods Canada, the PEIPotatoBoard, the NB Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries and the PEI Department of Agriculture. Dahu Chen, AAFC plant pathologist, examines the leaves of a potato plant for signs of disease. (Photo courtesy of AAFC)
Potato virus Y (PVY) affects both yield and the quality of the crop, making it one of the most dangerous diseases faced by commercial potato producers. Spread by aphids and through infected seed lots, PVY has been managed with varying levels of success by Canadian growers for many years, but the rise of more aggressive and faster-spreading strains has made it even more challenging to control.
Potato industry stakeholders from across the United States gathered in Bangor, Maine in November 2017 to deliberate on Dickeya, the aggressive disease that’s devastated thousands of potato acres in the U.S. since its first major outbreak in 2015.
The potato person who said many years ago "A potato storage is not a hospital" was absolutely right. Diseased or bruised tubers do not get better in storage. Tubers bruised at harvest are easily invaded by soft rot or Fusarium dry rot, which can cause serious economic losses in storage.Harvest management, in large part, is bruise management. Bruising also affects tuber quality significantly. In order to harvest potatoes with minimum tuber damage, growers need to implement digging, handling and storage management practices that maintain the crop quality for as long as possible after harvest.Assuming all harvest and handling equipment are mechanically ready to harvest the crop with minimum bruising, there are several tips to preserve the quality of potatoes crop during harvest: Timely Vine Killing. Killing the vines when tubers are mature makes harvesting easier by reducing the total vine mass moving through the harvester. This allows an easier separation of tubers from vines. Timely Harvest. Potatoes intended for long term storage should not be harvested until the vines have been dead for at least 14 days to allow for full skin set to occur. Soil Moisture. Optimal harvest conditions are at 60-65% available soil moisture. Tuber Pulp Temperature. Optimal pulp temperatures for harvest are from 500F to 600F. Proper pulp temperature is critical; tubers are very sensitive to bruising when the pulp temperature is below 450F. If pulp temperatures are above 650F, tubers become very susceptible to soft rot and Pythium leak. Pulp temperatures above 70°F increase the risk of pink rot tremendously no matter how gently you handle the tubers if there is inoculum in the soil. Tuber Hydration. An intermediate level of tuber hydration results in the least bruising. Overhydrated tubers dug from wet soil are highly sensitive to shatter bruising especially when the pulp temperature is below 450F. In addition, tubers harvested from cold, wet soil are more difficult to cure and more prone to breakdown in storage. Slightly dehydrated tubers dug from dry soil are highly sensitive to blackspot bruising. Reducing Blackspot Bruising. Irrigate soil that is excessively dry before digging to prevent tuber dehydration and blackspot bruising. Bruise Detection Devices. Try to keep the volume of soil and tubers moving through the digger at capacity at all points of the machine. If bruising is noticeable, use a bruise detection device to determine where in the machinery the tubers are being bruised. Do not harvest potatoes from low, poorly drained areas of a field where water may have accumulated and/or dig tests have indicated the presence of tubers infected with late blight. Train all employees on how to reduce bruising. Harvester operators must be continually on the lookout for equipment problems that may be damaging tubers. Ideally, growers should implement a bruise management program that includes all aspects of potato production from planting through harvest. Harvest when day temperatures are not too warm to avoid tuber infections. Storage rots develop very rapidly at high temperatures and spread easily in storage. If potatoes are harvested at temperatures above 27o C and cool off slowly in storage, the likelihood of storage rots is increased. If warm weather is forecast, dig the crop early in the morning when it is not so warm.
Nov. 29, 2016, Canada – Canada's potato production was 105.2 million hundredweight (4.7 million tonnes) in 2016, up 0.5 per cent from 2015, according to the latest report from Statistics Canada. Production in British Columbia increased 41.8 per cent to 315 hundredweight per acre. Ontario, which experienced extreme summer heat and drought, saw production and yield fall 17.2 per cent compared with a year earlier. Harvested area edged down 0.2 per cent from 2015. In 2016, Prince Edward Island represented 24.5 per cent of total potato production and Manitoba represented 21.3 per cent.
Some P.E.I. potato farmers have had to wait longer than usual to finish their harvest because of recent wet weather, according to the P.E.I. Potato Board. | READ MORE
Ambra variety potatoes harvested by C&V Farms in October. Photo courtesy of Eugenia Banks.  Oct. 27, 2016, Ontario – Each growing season is different, but the 2016 season was unlike any season seen before in Ontario. Planting started later than usual due to the cold weather. The early crop planted by the middle of April in southwestern Ontario took more than three weeks to emerge due to cool soil temperatures. Growers were caught off guard when snow fell by the middle of May. The season was off to a bumpy start.  There was only limited rain up to the end of May. Then the heat and drought started relentlessly – too early in the season.  Studies have shown that a healthy crop of potatoes needs an inch of rain a week. That adds up to about 16 inches of rain from May through August for the potato crop to show its full potential. Environment Canada data indicates that the water deficit in Norfolk, Simcoe and Dufferin counties was above 60 per cent. Norfolk County was the hardest hit by the heat and drought, with a total rainfall close to four inches near Delhi.  Where available, irrigation was the order of the day during the summer. However, growers could not keep up with irrigation due to the extremely high evapo-transpiration rate. Irrigation increased the cost of production dramatically. By July, there were reports of some irrigation ponds that were completely empty and not filling up. One producer said, “With the heat and drought we are experiencing, irrigation is simply keeping the crop alive. Rain water does way more for the crop than irrigation.”  There were many days in June, July and August when the temperatures were above 30 C. Such heat puts the potato plants in a dormant state, unable to photosynthesize efficiently, the activity that keeps plants functioning well.  Some rainfall by the middle of August did not help the early crop, which was too far gone to benefit from rain.  Ontario Potato Distributing in Alliston started packing early potatoes from Leamington on July 19. Quality was excellent. The harvest of the early crop continued in August but yields were down at least 50 per cent in non-irrigated fields. In irrigated fields, yield reduction was at least 35 per cent.  Dry weather brings good quality. Diseases such as late blight, pink rot and leak did not develop. These diseases, also known as storage rots, reduce quality and can cause significant storage losses.  Hot, dry weather also induces second growth. A few table varieties with short dormancy aged rapidly in the field and showed some sprouting before harvest.  Mark VanOostrum reports that the chip processing crop yielded as low as 60 per cent of normal yield. The best yields were reported from the Shelburne area in the late-planted crop and late-season varieties. Harvest was difficult, because it took more than five to six weeks to get good skin set after topkill or natural death. Because the fall was very warm, storages temperatures are just starting to drop below 13 C. Typically, the temperature would have been down to 9 C on many bins for a few weeks by this time of the year. Higher storage temperatures will age the crop (one that was already aged in the field due to the heat and drought). The processing of the storage crop started earlier than anytime in recent history due to the shortage of field fry crop. Some heat necrosis was seen in Atlantics, but minimal in other varieties. So far, the quality of the storage crop has been very good. Some stem end sugar defect is present, but less than normal for this early in the storage season. One real concern is how the long-term effect of the heat and drought stress affect the chipping quality. Stem end sugar defect incidence and severity is highly correlated with extreme heat, and the question remains: will we be able to burn off all the stem end? Also, the heat and drought stress is correlated with chemical and physical aging. Will a variety that typically has a seven-month life span be shortened by weeks or months? Time will tell. By Thanksgiving, nearly all the table and processing crop had been dug and stored with no risk of storage rots.  Ontario potato growers will remember 2016 as one of the hottest and driest year in Ontario. Our potato growers should be commended for their resilience and capacity to produce a high-quality crop in what was an extremely difficult growing season.   
Oct. 21, 2016, Canada – As potato harvest wraps up, the United Potato Growers of Canada reports conditions were generally favourable for growers across the country.  Prince Edward Island Approximately 35 per cent of P.E.I.'s potato crop had been harvested by Thanksgiving. Beautiful weather has made for excellent harvest conditions. Overall quality going into storage to date has been good with the exception of some isolated issues such as scab. Size profile is a bit lower on some of the first crop dug but current projections are for at least an average yield. Demand has been very good and as a result, fresh shipments are ahead of last year at this time. P.E.I. has begun shipping into some markets at an earlier time frame than normal. Prices are much better that this time last year.  New Brunswick Excellent harvesting conditions have put the harvest percentage between 75 and 80 per cent as Oct. 7. Yields have been good with many fields in the northern region running around 375 cwt./acre and 325 to 350 cwt./acre in the southern part of the province. Fresh sheds are running product out of field to help several growers finish up. Growers and sheds seem particularly happy with the yield and quality of the Innovator variety this year, which did not seem to be as susceptible to heat and dry conditions experienced. Quebec Excellent weather had brought the harvest to between 75 and 80 per cent completion as of Oct. 7. Many growers have only a week left, although the Lac St. Jean area will probably need two weeks. Yields are status quo, but certainly down from last year’s record setter. Quality is very good, with perhaps a smaller size profile in some areas. Movement has been very good to date. Pricing is stable and packers have agreed to leave it at current price points for now. OntarioOntario’s harvest was 85 per cent complete on Oct. 7. The Shelburne area, which is usually the last planted region due to a later spring with cooler soil temperatures, is about 60 per cent harvested. Growers in the province have experienced a 50 per cent yield reduction on dry land crops and a 20 per cent reduction on irrigated fields. Dry weather however does bring good storage conditions with no storage rot, so the quality of both fresh and processing spuds, is excellent. Trials this year showed some of the standard varieties performed better in the heat and drought than some of the newer ones, which exhibited secondary growth, knobs and growth cracks. Shippers also feel, chef size and larger size sku’s should bring more of a premium this year. The Ontario fresh market has been strong without the traditional downward pressure on price experienced this time of year. Virtually all of the chip harvest was in the bin by Thanksgiving. Manitoba Manitoba’s harvest was 95 per cent complete on Oct. 7. Harvest conditions were very wet after receiving three inches of rain. Quality going into storage is high with minimal rot. Gravity is high in the processing spuds with a large size profile. Yields have been remarkable, with many processing growers having a surplus over their contracts. Some fields will be disced under, due to lack of storage. Yield records in the province will probably be set this year, despite the drowned out acreage south and east of Winkler. Those growers in the path of that severe weather pattern will have large losses and crop insurance claims this year. Processing of the new crop in the months of September/October is down from 1.7 million hundredweight in 2015 to 1.2 million hundred weight in 2016. Very little open purchasing has been done yet. Fresh pricing continues to be strong with the market driven by the extreme weather and excess moisture in the Red River Valley of North Dakota. Saskatchewan Most of the potato crop had been harvested by Oct. 7. Some areas had seen 10 centimetres of snow in early October, with wind chills of -7 C. Alberta For the most part, harvest conditions were excellent, and a few rain days did not cause any concern. The Central Alberta seed area did have some wet rainy days, which caused harvest to drag on, but it is now complete in that region. Seed quality is excellent – the best in years. Process quality is extremely good. There are some pink rot and soft rot issues that are being dealt with. In terms of yield, seed yield is excellent, early process yields are excellent, storage yields are just average due to a shortage of heat units at critical times in the growing season. British Columbia For the most part, B.C.’s crop was harvested by Oct. 7. There are some growers with full storages who will need to market out of field in order to wrap up. Yields and quality have been excellent. British Columbia was able to begin marketing earlier this year, which should be a big help in moving their crop through distribution channels. Observations on the European crop The North-western European Potato Growers (NEPG) expect production in their five countries (Netherlands, Belgium, France, Great Britain, and Germany) to be down in 2016 by 1.6 per cent compared to 2015, and 2.2 per cent compared to their five-year average. This is due to weather-related issues, even though their planted acreage increased by 4.8 per cent this year. This is a preliminary estimate, as harvest is not yet complete, but this does represent a reduction of 1,000,000 tons. Of particular interest is Belgium, with projected reductions of 12.4 per cent below 2015, and 17.8 per cent below their five-year average. For more information, contact Kevin MacIsaac at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it
Oct. 6, 2016, Ontario – A quick survey indicated that about 80 per cent of the provincial potato crop has been harvested by Oct. 5, according to Eugenia Banks, Ontario potato specialist. On the chipping front, Mark Van Oostrum from WD Potato expects that most processing growers will be done by Thanksgiving. Growers in the Simcoe, Ont., area are close to completing the harvest. Joe Lach, who farms near Delhi, Ont., will finish this coming week, and told Banks his remaining potato crop is all sold. About 60 per cent of the acreage near Shelburne, Ont., has been dug. This area plants a bit later than other areas due to cooler spring weather and lower soil temperature. On Oct. 5, Banks harvested a variety trial in Honeywood, Ont. Standard processing varieties such as Lamoka (chipping) and Waneta (chipping and table) did very well. There was no second growth or tuber malformations. By contrast, many of the new varieties under evaluation showed the effects of a hot, dry summer: second growth, bottlenecks, cracks and knobs. 2016 was a great year to see how new varieties perform under heat and water stress.
Yellow Sun, Red Smile, Kiss-me-a-lot and Lobster Red are four unique varieties of potato to be grown in Newfoundland and Labrador for the first time. 
Wild potatoes acquired from a gene bank in Germany six years ago are producing promising results for Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researchers trying to develop superior Canadian varieties with resistance to some of the most problematic potato diseases.  Stronger potato varieties will increase yields for Canadian growers, which translates into higher profits.Dr. Benoit Bizimungu, head of potato breeding at the Fredericton Research and Development Centre, said a number of hybrids bred from these wild varieties could be ready for industry trials next year.  Bizimungu selected the German plants because of superior traits such as high yield, as well as strong natural resistance to PVY, late blight, drought, and insects like the Colorado potato beetle.“Although the primary interest was multiple disease resistance and high yield potential, a number of progenies show a nice deep yellow flesh color, which is usually associated with carotenoids,” Bizimungu explains. This is great news for consumers who want more antioxidants in their diet.“What is really exciting is that some of these wild species have never been used in potato breeding before now,” he says. “Using these new parents broadens the genetic base.”“It’s good to have multiple sources for breeding, especially for things like late blight where it keeps changing.”Dr. Bizimungu obtained this unique plant material as a result of his collaboration with potato geneticist Dr. Ramona Thieme of the Julius Kuhn-lnstitut (JKI) at the Federal Research Centre for Cultivated Plants in Braunschweig, Germany.The imported species come from wild potato cultivars that originated in South America, the birthplace of the potato. 
Inside Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) high tech Canadian Potato Genetic Resources (CPGR) lab in Fredericton, N.B., hundreds of small glass test tubes contain vital keys to Canada’s potato growing future. The gene bank – a living library of almost 180 potentially high-value potato breeding lines – is an important component of Canada’s ongoing potato research, proof of our commitment to global food security, and our last line of defence against potato disease or natural disaster.
Scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Fredericton Research and Development Centre have developed two potato varieties resistant to the Colorado potato beetle, writes Atlantic Farm Focus. | READ MORE
Those suffering from malnutrition in the global south could soon find help from an unlikely source: a humble potato, genetically tweaked to provide substantial doses of vitamins A and E, both crucial nutrients for health.
Examining the ancestors of the modern, North American cultivated potato has revealed a set of common genes and important genetic pathways that have helped spuds adapt over thousands of years. Cultivated potatoes, domesticated from wild Solanum species, a genetically simpler diploid (containing two complete sets of chromosomes) species, can be traced to the Andes Mountains in Peru, South America.Scientific explorer Michael Hardigan, formerly at MSU and now at the University of California-Davis, led the team of MSU and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University scientists. Together, they studied wild, landrace (South American potatoes that are grown by local farmers) and modern cultivars developed by plant breeders. For the full story, click here.
One of the more than 70 USDA studies in Maine looking at the effects of crops like mustard, rapeseed and barley in potato rotations. Photo by USDA-ARS If you’re dealing with some tough soil-borne diseases, adding canola, mustard or rapeseed to your potato rotation could help. That important finding emerged from recent potato rotation studies in Maine, led by Dr. Bob Larkin, a research plant pathologist with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Over the last 12 years or so, the USDA researchers have conducted more than 70 trials to investigate the effects of different rotations on soil-borne diseases in potatoes and on potato yields. Although the results varied from year to year and field to field, overall, Larkin and his research team found that crops in the Brassicaceae family, such as canola, rapeseed and mustard, consistently reduced potato diseases like black scurf, common scab and Verticillium wilt, and significantly improved potato yields. Now researchers in Atlantic Canada will be examining the effects of Brassica crops as part of a major potato rotation project. Three-pronged attackLarkin explains there are three general mechanisms by which rotation crops may reduce soil-borne diseases – and Brassica crops likely act in all three ways. “The first mechanism is that the rotation crop serves as a break in the host-pathogen cycle,” he says. “This mechanism is in effect any time you have a rotation crop that does not have the same pathogens as your host crop. This is a general strategy of increasing rotation length by adding other types of crops. The longer the time between your host crop, the more its pathogen population declines.” “The second mechanism is where the rotation crop causes physical, chemical or biological changes in the soil environment,” Larkin says. “It may stimulate microbial activity and diversity, it may increase beneficial organisms, and things like that, which then help compete with pathogens and reduce pathogen populations.” This mechanism varies with different rotation crops. “The third mechanism is where the rotation crop has a direct inhibiting effect on either particular pathogens or general pathogens,” he says. The rotation crop may release suppressive or toxic compounds in its roots or residues, or it may release compounds that stimulate certain beneficial microbes that suppress pathogens. Only some crop species have this mechanism. The first mechanism by itself may not be very effective for controlling some soil-borne pathogens that can survive for many years without a host plant. Brassicas are well-known for the third mechanism. They contain compounds called glucosinolates, and when Brassica plant materials are incorporated into the soil, the glucosinolates break down to produce other compounds, called isothiocyanates. Isothiocyanates are biofumigants that are toxic to many soil fungi, especially fungal pathogens, weeds, nematodes and other pests. Larkin’s research shows Brassica biofumigant activity is greatest when the crop is incorporated into the soil as a green manure. However, even when a Brassica crop is harvested and then the remaining crop residues are incorporated, there is still some biofumigant effect. The amount of the biofumigant effect also depends on the Brassica crop’s glucosinolate levels; canolas have relatively low levels, rapeseeds somewhat higher, and mustards have the highest. “With any of those Brassicas, you will get some benefit from incorporating the crop residues. And it is a measurable and real effect on both potato yield and on reduction of potato diseases,” he notes. As well, Larkin’s studies indicate Brassicas also provide the second mechanism. “Brassicas seem to have an ability to alter soil microbial communities in different ways which is not necessarily related to their amount of glucosinolates or their ability to act as a biofumigant. I think the aspect of how they change the soil microbiology is equally important to their biofumigant effect,” he says. For example, the USDA researchers found that canola and rapeseed sometimes do a better job at reducing black scurf (Rhizoctonia solani) than some of the higher glucosinolate mustards, and the effect on black scurf works even without incorporating the Brassica crop. However, Larkin’s studies also show that managing some other diseases – like powdery scab (Spongospora subterranean) and Verticillium wilt – requires a full green manure. Two-year rotation is too shortIf disease suppression is a major goal of your potato rotation, then Larkin’s research results provide some key factors to consider. First, a Brassica’s disease suppression effect won’t last forever, so the potato crop should immediately follow the Brassica in the rotation to get the greatest benefit. Second, a two-year rotation will not effectively reduce disease in the long run. Larkin found that no matter what crop was in a two-year rotation with potatoes, certain pathogens tended to build up over time. For example, in one 10-year study the researchers compared two-year rotations in fields where common scab and Verticillium wilt were not problems at the beginning of the period. But by the end of the study, both diseases had become substantial problems in all of the two-year rotations. The canola-potato and rapeseed-potato rotations had significantly lower disease levels than the other rotations, but they still had gradually increasing amounts of common scab and Verticillium wilt. “So we recommend a three-year rotation as your first line of defence, and then including a disease-suppressive rotation crop in one of the years of that three-year rotation,” Larkin says. A Brassica green manure could be a good choice for the disease-suppressive crop, or you could grow a Brassica as a full-season crop and follow it with a disease-suppressive cover crop. “The addition of a cover crop like winter rye or ryegrass, in combination with your Brassica, can provide a significant addition to the disease reduction,” he notes. Even though the grower would not be earning any direct income from a green manure or a cover crop, these options can be valuable tools to get serious soil-borne disease problems under control. “That’s really how we first got into this research,” Larkin explains. “Some potato growers [in Maine] had some soils with substantial disease problems, and they wanted to try whatever they could to get those soils back to where their potatoes would be producing better. So they were willing to give up a seasonal crop for a year or two, to try to get the pathogen populations down to controllable levels.” (Two seasons of a green manure might be necessary if the field has very high pathogen populations.) A third factor to consider is whether the rotation crops share any pathogens with potatoes. In Maine, the only shared pathogen that increased in potato-Brassica rotation trials was sclerotinia. In his own studies, Larkin hasn’t had any sclerotinia issues because sclerotinia is not common in Maine potato fields. However, a researcher at the University of Maine found two fields with sclerotinia and did some rotational trials there. Sclerotinia increased in those two fields when canola or rapeseed was in a rotation with potatoes. “So if you have a field with a history of sclerotinia problems, then a Brassica may not be the best rotation crop for you,” says Larkin. Alternatively, adding a cereal crop to a potato-Brassica rotation may help because cereals are not susceptible to sclerotinia. Maritimes rotation projectThe major potato rotation project now underway in Atlantic Canada is examining various crop options including canola and some other Brassicas. Dr. Aaron Mills, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in P.E.I., is leading the project. He is conducting trials at AAFC’s Harrington Research Farm in the province, involving nine different three-year rotations. The project is funded under Growing Forward 2, with support from AAFC and the Eastern Canada Oilseeds Development Alliance Inc. McCain Fertilizer division is collaborating by conducting a similar study in New Brunswick. Generally, the project’s three-year rotations involve a year of potatoes, a year of another high-value crop, and a year of a more diverse crop mix or a biofumigant crop. “We’re looking at canola, soybean and corn [as the high-value crops], and at other, more diversified phases in the rotation, including blends of a Brassica, a grass and a legume all planted at the same time,” Mills explains. He notes, “The canola acreage is increasing slightly in Prince Edward Island, it is one of the higher-value oilseed crops, and it does very well under our climate. And it’s important to diversify the cropping system, so if you can add in a different crop and it’s a higher value crop, then that’s a win-win situation. “Canola has also been touted to have some biofumigatory effects, and the Brassicas in general produce certain compounds shown to have effects on diseases and insect pests,” Mills says. “Buckwheat is another [crop that supresses pests], based on research by my colleague Dr. Christine Noronha, so we’re also including buckwheat in the trials.” Mills and his research team will be scouting all the crops in the different rotations for disease and insect pests. Sclerotinia is one of the issues they’ll particularly watch for. Mills notes, “We are starting to see an increase in sclerotinia [in P.E.I.], and a lot of the higher value crops in these rotations are hosts for sclerotinia.” Along with collecting data on crop yields, diseases and insect pest issues, the researchers will also be monitoring such factors as crop biomass and soil organisms including nematodes. And Dr. Judith Nyiraneza, an AAFC nutrient management specialist, will be tracking nutrient dynamics in the soil. The researchers conducted preliminary work in 2013, and 2014 was the project’s first full year. The current funding will take the project to 2017-18, but Mills hopes to run it for nine to 12 years. “You can’t really look at the trends until you get at least a couple of phases of each rotation. So one of the big determinants for the project’s success is how long we can run the rotations,” he says.   Putting it all togetherThe effects of different rotation crops on potato diseases and yields may differ somewhat from region to region. Mills emphasizes the importance of evaluating rotations in different regions: “P.E.I. soils are different than those in Ontario or out west, and how the crops respond is not exactly the same.” Mills’ overall advice for effective potato rotations is that more diversity is better. “From what we’ve seen so far with some of our other studies, it’s all about increasing the crop diversity. You can increase the length of the rotation by adding different crops. Or, if you have a shorter rotation, you can increase [the in-year diversity]. That seems to show some benefits to the soil and to the organic matter especially,” he says.    Similarly, Larkin advises using multiple rotation-related practices for enhanced disease suppression. Examples include: increasing the rotation’s length, adding crops that also have the second and third mechanisms of disease suppression, and including cover crops and green manures. His research shows that, although these practices will not completely eliminate potato diseases, they will reduce soil-borne potato diseases and improve potato yields. As well, these kinds of sustainable practices provide other long-term benefits for a farm’s production capacity and potential longevity. These benefits include improving overall soil health, enhancing soil microbial diversity and activity, increasing soil organic matter and building a healthier agro-ecosystem. “All these practices are components of making a better, more sustainable system,” Larkin says. For potato growers in Maine, Larkin’s general rotation recommendation is “a three-year rotation, with one year of a grain such as barley, then a cover crop like ryegrass or winter rye, then a Brassica, which could be a mustard green manure or a harvestable oilseed Brassica crop, and then potato in the third year of the rotation.” He notes, “That recommendation is based on a lot of different studies looking at what is the best system for reducing disease, what is the best system for improving soil quality. Now [in our current studies] we are trying to combine those into a rotation that incorporates aspects of all of those things and seeing if it really does everything we hoped it would.”  
Sept. 25, 2014, Prince Edward Island – A new method of applying fertilizer to potato crops, with the intent to grow a more desirable potato while cutting down on costly fertilizer waste, is showing promise in Prince Edward Island, reports The Guardian. | READ MORE
Southern Alberta is well known as cattle country, but the region also is home to significant commercial potato production. Now, a partnership between a potato grower and cattle producer has proven to be a fortuitous – albeit rather unorthodox – opportunity to unite the two industries for mutual benefit. Harold and Chris Perry are co-owners of the Kasko Cattle Company, with feedlot owner Ryan Kasko, on 10 quarter-sections of land surrounding the Kasko Cattle Company feedlot east of Taber, Alta. Kasko owns and operates the feedlot itself, which raises about 14,000 head of cattle annually. Harold Perry says they partnered with Kasko in the recent purchase of the land surrounding the feedlot partially because it provided them with a ready supply of manure that they could convert to compost for use in their potato production. The potato producer benefits primarily from the nutrient and micronutrient value delivered by the feedlot’s manure when it is applied on potato cropland in the form of compost, while the feedlot has a handy place to dispose of its significant accumulation of manure right nearby. The feedlot owner delivers the raw manure to a dedicated composting site with good drainage control where the potato producer converts it to compost. It is land applied in October and worked in before the potato hills are created for next year’s planting. The Perry family’s expertise, which includes Harold and Chris’ father, Gerald, is in producing crops such as potatoes, sunflowers and peas on a total of 4,600 owned and rented acres. Their business is headquartered close to the town of Chin, about 40 kilometres from the feedlot – a typically hot, dry climate requiring irrigation, with plenty of frost-free days. The Perrys have a contract to produce 13,500 tonnes of potatoes for Frito Lay and 8,500 tonnes of potatoes for McCain Foods on about 1,300 acres that are under irrigation for that purpose. For the past decade, the Perrys have used cattle manure compost as fertilizer in their potato-growing operation because of the nutrient and microbial benefits they’ve realized from using it. Harold Perry says they observed with growing potatoes on virgin potato growing soil versus soil that had been under cultivation previously in a four-year potato crop rotation that there was a dropoff in potato production on soil where potatoes had been grown in the past. They discovered that using compost on the potato rotation land not only provided organic fertilizer to the crop but also worked as an excellent soil amendment, adding many micronutrient and biological unknowns to the overall quality of potato-growing land that really made a difference in commercial potato production. “We wanted to try compost because that is the natural way that things work,” says Perry. “When the buffalo were here, they ate and manured the grass at the same time, and that’s how the natural cycle worked. Fertilizer prices have also helped because compost makes sense if you go strictly by dollars. The cost of putting the amount of nutrients you put on your soil using compost is less than if you were to purchase that at a fertilizer dealership.” Composting the manure deals with that issue, and it is also more economical to transport nutrients in this form than as raw manure. The Perrys can attest to that fact. “Good compost has about 60 per cent of the weight of raw manure,” says Perry. “So if you get too far away from the feedlot, then the trucking just kills you.” Research being conducted by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, specifically in Summerland, B.C., also is showing that the addition of compost could help in the prevention of verticillium wilt, also known as early dying syndrome. Potato crops infected with this pathogen will typically see the tops of potato plants die off between early August and September, which can have a devastating impact on potato production in the case of a bad outbreak. The pathogen enters the plant through root lesions. The root lesions are caused by nematodes that live in the soil and feed on the roots. So far, what the B.C. research has shown is that the addition of compost enhances the presence of a fungus that feeds on the nematodes, thus reducing the amount of root lesions and closing the pathway for the verticillium wilt pathogen to enter the plant. Results so far have been promising, although the theory hasn’t quite been proven yet, according to Dr. Frank Larney, research scientist in the area of soil conservation with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) at the Lethbridge Research Centre in Alberta. Before the Perrys became partners in the feedlot, they were purchasing their compost from a commercial supplier. It was partially because of compost quality issues that they agreed to invest in land surrounding the Taber area feedlot with Ryan Kasko so they could acquire their own supply of raw cattle manure to manufacture compost. The Taber feedlot and surrounding land were also near their potato growing operations, so all the pieces conveniently fell into place. Harold Perry is in charge of compost production. “If I have a goal, it’s to have healthier soils, for healthier crops, for a healthier population,” he says. The Perrys pay Kasko for the cattle manure, and he in turn hires a custom contractor to deliver the raw manure to the compost production site. The custom manure hauler creates the windrows needed to produce compost. During the first year of compost production, the feedlot delivered about 9,000 tonnes of manure to the site. Delivery of the manure resulted in four windrows measuring a distance of about half a kilometre each. Once the windrows were created, Perry began monitoring the conversion process and used his compost-turning equipment as needed. He acknowledges feeling a bit anxious about delving into compost production because of the science required to ensure that the biological organisms have a healthy environment to carry out the conversion process but adds that learning to compost has been an enjoyable experience. To prepare himself, he took a composting course offered by Midwest BioSystems. The conversion process takes from July to mid-October. To turn the compost, Perry purchased a 14-foot wide, pull-type, Sittler compost turner, which retails for about $45,000. He was able to recoup about half the cost by applying to a government program called the Growing Forward Manure Management Program. He checked the heat and moisture content in the composting windrows regularly to ensure that the organisms were working in an optimum environment. He also purchased a Sittler water wagon that can be towed along with the compost turner so that moisture can be applied to the windrows as needed. Perry says he turned the compost six or seven times with the main determining factor being when the temperature in the compost heap reached 160 F. At the beginning, the turning was done every four or five days because of the strong biological activity underway. Ideally, the conversion process should take 10 weeks, but Perry says he prefers to wait 16 to 20 weeks. As part of the Perrys’ adventure into composting, they hired an agriculture consultant from Sunrise Ag in Taber to soil sample and develop topography maps to help determine how much compost should be applied at various points on their cropland. The consultant developed maps showing six zones where the compost should be applied to a lesser or greater extent to achieve ideal growing potential. To spread the compost, Perry purchased a Bunning compost spreader with vertical beaters, which he pulls using a John Deere 8430 tractor equipped with hydrostatic drive. Perry recommends a tractor in the 180- to 200-horsepower range. The tractor moves at about 16 kilometres per hour, and the spreader broadcasts the compost over a width of about 40 feet. This results in an application rate of about four tonnes per acre. Increasing or decreasing tractor speed based upon the zone mapping displayed in the cab will increase or decrease the application rate. Larney says he is not surprised by the results witnessed by the Perrys. He says using compost in the lighter, sandier soils under irrigation in southern Alberta delivers “a better bang for your buck” than perhaps it would in the soils where seed potatoes are grown in central Alberta. These soils typically contain more organic material. Given the amount of row crop type production in southern Alberta and because these crops do not return organic matter to the soil, Larney says, “the addition of compost is a very good way of replenishing soil organic matter . . . it’s the quickest way.” He adds that compost also delivers other benefits, such as the addition of micronutrients not present in commercial fertilizer, and also improves the soil’s water holding capacity, making it more resilient to both wind and water erosion. Given how close together both cattle and potato production are in southern Alberta, he says their co-operation is a natural fit. “It kind of makes sense that it (manure) should end up on potato land,” says Larney. He is noticing more feedlot operators moving in the direction of composting the manure in advance versus simply land applying raw manure. “I think a lot of feedlots are now realizing that they should look at composting because you can only rely on your neighbours for so long to take raw manure,” he says. “With the buildup of phosphorus levels in particular close to feedlots, I think the onus is on the feedlot owners to hopefully ensure that these nutrients are spread out over a wider area so that we are not getting high nutrient loading on land close to the feedlot.”
Potato crops require large amounts of most inputs and potato growers seek economical alternatives for what this high-value crop requires.
One day soon, you might be able to give your potato crop an extra boost from beneficial bacteria, thanks to some innovative studies by Ontario researchers.
Adjusting fertility programs by the tiniest increment could net a yield increase. All that might be required is better understanding the soil’s needs or choosing nutrient materials that will work more effectively in particular soil profiles. Three top potato experts share their tips for tweaking fertility that are valid for any potato operation. While most of the recommendations are not new, they may be getting overlooked or they may need to be combined with others in order to get better results.
A research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada in P.E.I. is looking for natural ways to deal with click beetles and wireworms that cause damage to potatoes. 
Eight spore traps have been set up in potato fields across Ontario to help detect spores of late blight, according to Eugenia Banks' latest potato update.Two spore traps are located in the Shelburne-Melancthon areas at D & C Vander Zaag Farms Ltd. and two others in the Alliston area at Mark and Shawn Murphy Farms. In the Delhi area, two spore traps are set up at Joe Lach's Farm and Fancy Pak Brand Inc. The final two spore traps are located in the Leamington area at Harry Bradley and Sons Farm. Alliance Agri-Turf, Bayer CropScience, FS Partners, Holmes Agro and Syngenta provided funding for the 2018 late blight spore trap project. A&L Laboratories in London, Ont. will conduct the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) tests to identify the presence of late blight spores. The results will be shared with growers and positive PCR tests indicate the presence of spores. Early detection helps alert growers to add late blight-specific fungicides into their mix.In the past two years, Eugenia Banks, a former potato specialist for the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affaris (OMAFRA), led a project evaluating passive spore trapping technology to help growers improve late blight management. The project recorded positive results. Spores were detected 15 days on average before late blight lesions were seen in a few fields. A previous Potatoes in Canada article goes indepth into the project and how effective spore traps are for preventing late blight. “Spore traps represent another tool to be added to the potato growers’ arsenal to combat late blight,” Banks says. “If late blight spores are not detected by the traps, growers should still follow a preventative fungicide program and apply a fungicide spray before rows close. Also, fields should be scouted regularly.”
The practices used in selecting and preparing seed potatoes for planting play a big role in getting your crop off to a great beginning.
Ever since becoming widely used in Canada in the late 1990s, neonicotinoid pesticides have helped keep Colorado potato beetle (CPB) populations in check. But the pest could be poised for a comeback, due to growing CPB resistance to neonics and the prospect of the Group 4 insecticides being banned from Canadian potato farms.
Lso (zebra chip pathogen) has been detected in small numbers of potato psyllids in two sites in Alberta, but no zebra chip symptoms or pathogen has been found in any potato plant tissue yet.During three years of sampling for potato psyllids (Bactericera cockerelli) across Canada, we foundsmall numbers in Alberta (2015-2017, increasing annually), Saskatchewan (first time in 2016), andManitoba (first adults, 2016). No potato psyllids have been found on sample cards from any siteseast of Manitoba.In southern Alberta, the range of potato psyllids has expanded to sites throughout the potatogrowing area, where in 2017 they appeared on sampling cards of over 70 per cent of 45 sites regularly sampled (we thank the growers for co-operation and access to University of Lethbridge samplers at 45 sites, with a minimum of 4 sampling cards per field, and Crop Diversification Centre South for managing two additional sites and sending sample cards). For the full story, click here. 
While there are no "silver bullets" for combating wireworm, with ongoing research, Island farmers do have more options.Christine Noronha, of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, has unveiled an effective wireworm trap. "The trap is a very simple light trap, called the NELT. It uses a solar powered light source to attract the adults of wireworms, click beetles. The beetles walk to the light and fall into a cup buried in the ground under the light,"  Noronha explained.This is the first trap that catches female click beetles. Trapping the egg-laying females will gradually help reduce the wireworm population in the field. For the full story, click here.
Manitoba, in general, had a slightly delayed start of planting in 2018; about a week later thanin 2017, reports Vikram Bisht in the first Manitoba Potato Disease Report of the season. The majority of planting started in first week of May, and mostly finished by the end of May. Early planted fields have good emergence. June 1 has been set for initiation/accumulation of P-Days and late blight Disease Severity Values. P-day is a measure of heat available for crop growth and development, and values accumulate when temperatures range between 7 C and 30 C.Weather conditions since planting have been very warm, with a few days over 30 C. Precipitation has been below normal for May, except for a few scattered heavy rain events towards end of May. This week’s rain should help ingood emergence and stand. The current soil temperatures are 2 C to 5 C warmer than end of May last year. These warm soil temperatures and may speed up emergence.Cull piles are an important source of inoculum for many diseases including late blight. It is important to dispose of properly the cull piles before thunderstorms arrive.
The most recent reports coming out of a 20-year study on P.E.I. soil health are showing a general decline in soil organic matter (SOM). The news is causing alarm, but for Vernon Campbell, a potato farmer, the headlines aren’t all that shocking. In fact, he said it’s a situation Island producers are already actively working to fix. | READ MORE
Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientist Louis-Pierre Comeau is sifting his way through New Brunswick soil in search of answers to one of the biggest issues facing local farmers: the loss of soil organic matter and the decrease of soil health in farm fields.
Rob Green, a potato farmer in Bedeque, is taking cover crop rotations to a new level. In the past, he grew barley, canola and hay as his rotational crops.
With the help of DNA sequencing, Canadian researchers are linking soil microbial communities to soil health and potato yields. This research is the first stage in eventually developing a tool to diagnose the health of potato fields and to help identify management practices to improve tuber yields and quality.
Brenda Shanahan, Member of Parliament for Châteauguay—Lacolle, on behalf of Minister of Agriculture and Agri Food Lawrence MacAulay, has announced a repayable contribution of $470,000 to help a Quebec company, Logiag Inc., commercialize a laser-based soil analysis system that replaces the more traditional chemical analyses.
A detailed understanding of the psychrometric chart can be an excellent tool in understanding water, air and vapour relationships.
After a final holding temperature is achieved in storage, it is important to ventilate properly in order to manage the byproducts of respiration, ensure a uniform temperature and an ideal environment for the duration of the storage period, which will maximize the value of the crop.
What potato grower wouldn’t want to add dollars to their bottom line? By reducing the bruising that occurs during harvest by one percent, thousands of dollars could be added to the bank, according to research completed at the University of Maine. The solution is to minimize the potential for bruising before the harvester enters the field, but growers in a hurry often overlook this most basic crop management rule.
Just because a disease cannot be seen on a potato does not mean it is not there. It is the unseen spores that can cause havoc in long-term storage and require early shipping or the worst-case scenario: the loss of the entire bin. What if a test could be done that would predict the potential for disease in a crop?
Usually wet seasons favour crop development, but incidence of storage rots is a concern, especially if rainfall occurs late in the growing season, advises Eugenia Banks, Ontario potato specialist.

Subscription Centre

 
New Subscription
 
Already a Subscriber
 
Customer Service
 
View Digital Magazine Renew

Most Popular

Latest Events

Ontario Potato Field Day
Thu Aug 23, 2018 @ 3:00PM - 08:00PM

We are using cookies to give you the best experience on our website. By continuing to use the site, you agree to the use of cookies. To find out more, read our Privacy Policy.