Potatoes in Canada

From the Editor: Business as usual

April 6, 2020  By  Stephanie Gordon

Editor’s Note: This editorial first appeared in Potatoes in Canada’s spring issue, mailed out in February. Is it ‘business as usual’ during COVID-19? No. 

As we come into the 2020 growing season, faint memories of the 2019 season still linger in some growers’ minds. Especially if you were one of the unlucky ones. One of my favourite questions to ask when I travel to farm shows or potato conferences is, “how was your season this year?” For some this year, it was an easy “good, business as usual” response. For others, it was a polite nod and a “fine.”

In 2019, Manitoba saw an estimated 13,000 acres of potatoes left in the ground, more than double the 5,300 acres left in 2018. Despite this hit, potato production in Canada was up overall, because more potatoes were planted and average yields were up. Our neighbours to the south were not as fortunate. According to the United States Department of Agriculture, U.S. spud farmers produced 2.2 per cent less potatoes in 2019 compared to 2018. In states with potato processing capacity, production was down 3.6 per cent.

Do these numbers matter now? Maybe not as much. It depends on how much of the 2019 season we bring into 2020 – hopefully none. There’s a saying that goes “never farm on last year’s weather.” It’s a poignant reminder during outlier years to come into every growing season as you normally would.

There’s a saying that goes “never farm on last year’s weather.” It’s a poignant reminder during outlier years to come into every growing season as you normally would.

When I attended the Manitoba Potato Production Days in Brandon, Man., I felt that’s exactly how growers were entering 2020: with a cautious optimism for the year ahead. This entire spring issue does the same and focuses on what’s to come. On page 14, we share an update on the status of the re-evaluation of several Group M fungicides, some of which will have an impact on your 2020 growing season in various ways. On page 12, we share what’s on the radar of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researchers and their work identifying potato varieties that can thrive through climate change. Finally, we look at what growers can anticipate from up-and-coming trends. Are you thinking of adding micronutrients to your crop management program? Are you thinking of planting a nurse crop to help with weed management prior to emergence? Look into those fresh ideas on page 18 and 20 respectively.

One thing Potatoes in Canada is particularly excited for is our podcast. By the time you’re reading this, Tuber Talk: Canada’s Potato Podcast, will be available wherever you listen to podcasts. We hope to capture some of the discussions our industry is having when it comes to the best production practices and trends. You’ll hear me ask everything from “how was your season this year” to some tougher questions about disease-suppressive crops and industry challenges. If you haven’t already, check out Tuber Talk: Canada’s Potato Podcast. We hope it will give you a sense of the bigger picture when the growing season rollercoaster takes you through its highs and lows. After all, in the potato industry, these highs and lows just represent business as usual.

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