Sustainability at the forefront of International Potato Technology Expo
By P.E.I. Department of Agriculture and Forestry
March 3, 2014, Prince Edward Island – The topic of environmental sustainability was front and centre for potato growers attending the International Potato Technology Expo Conference on Friday, Feb. 21, at Red Shores in Charlottetown, P.E.I. Ensuring that potato production in Prince Edward Island is both environmentally and economically sustainable is a priority for the industry, and a trio of speakers addressed these efforts as part of the expo’s education seminar on Friday morning.
Greg Donald, general manager of the PEI Potato Board, spoke about the efforts made by the Action Committee on Sustainable Land Management in response to the fish mortality events in the Barclay Brook Watershed in recent years. Committee members, local potato growers, and the PEI Department of Agriculture and Forestry have been working together to construct a number of soil conservation structures in this sensitive watershed to prevent future run-off into the Barclay Brook, including the longest soil terrace in the province. As well, growers in the area are voluntarily adopting management practices aimed at minimizing soil erosion as well as using more environmentally friendly pest control options.
Josh Dillman, soil and water engineer with the P.E.I Department of Agriculture and Forestry, reviewed the soil conservation programs that farmers can access through the department. So far, over 1.1 million feet of terraces, 270,000 feet of farmable berms, and 2.1 million feet of grassed waterways have been constructed by Island farmers collaborating with the Department of Agriculture and Forestry. Josh also reviewed cropping techniques aimed at leaving crop residues and organic matter in soils, as well as the Alternative Land Use Services (ALUS) program which can pay farmers to take sensitive land out of agricultural production.
Pierre Petelle, vice-president of CropLife Canada, spoke on the subject of sustainable pesticide use. Pesticides being developed and released in recent years have much lower levels of active ingredient than previous products, and chemical companies are committed to working with farmers to provide pest control products which do not adversely affect non-target organisms. Pierre discussed best management practices for pesticide application as well as the regulatory framework that governs crop protectant approval and oversight.
Also providing valuable presentations to Island potato growers were Dr. Rick Knowles of Washington State University who spoke on managing the physiological age of potato seed, as well as Faith Matchett from Farm Credit Canada who gave an overview of what 2014 will hold in store for Canadian agriculture and the potato industry in particular.