The United Potato Growers of Canada board of directors met in Halifax in mid-March and reviewed the potato crop and market status across Canada. Overall potato stocks for March 1 are down 11.5 per cent, or 6.3 million hundredweight (cwt), compared to March 1, 2018. Fresh stocks are down 16.6 per cent compared to a year ago and potatoes intended for processing are down 4,287,000 cwt. Seed stocks are 5.6 per cent below one year ago.

Prince Edward Island
Fresh potato movement to Canadian markets is above last year and ahead of their three-year average. U.S exports are below other years and overall movement including exports is behind last year, year to date. The Island’s fresh holdings are down 19 per cent compared to a year ago and fresh supplies are at their lowest levels since they began tracking them. As a result, pricing is significantly higher than a year ago. The fresh weighted average is $4.27 above last year ($28.28) and grower return index is $3.58 higher than 2018 ($17.95). Current ten-pound price is CAD $2.88 FOB. Processing potato stocks are down nine per cent from March 2018, somewhat buoyed by the vast imports of potatoes from Alberta and Idaho. The local processor is doing its best to keep the plants running as long as possible, by bringing in potatoes from long distances with high freight costs attached. Seed holdings in P.E.I. are down 13 per cent from a year ago. Seed inquiries are being fielded from areas a long distance from the province. The pass rate on virus levels has been very good but seed supply will be tight, especially on the Russet Burbank variety. Many growers purchase crop insurance each year and now need to receive payments back from the program. Like many other provinces, the P.E.I. Potato Board has also applied to the Agri-Recovery program for assistance to help producers move out of this disastrous year.

New Brunswick
Potato stocks in New Brunswick are down 14 per cent compared to a year ago. Fresh holdings are down 46 per cent below 2018 and as a result, prices are steady with very few lows reported. Some growers continue to wait for prices to move up even higher. Packers are challenged with high cullage rates due to growth cracks, off types and generally rough potatoes. Processing stocks are down 7.5% from 2018 and fryers have aggressively searched out lots for within province use and export to other provinces (a lot of potatoes left the province early in the fall for PEI and Quebec). Frost damage and storage issues are prevalent this year and the form line (chopped product) continues to use as much product as possible, given a crop that has much lower solids this year. Seed stocks are the lowest in four years, down 9.5%. New Brunswick is an active participant in Crop Insurance and has applied to Agri- Recovery for assistance as well.

Total storage holdings are down 7.4 per cent compared to one year ago. Fresh packers report slower sales in the last month. Normal disappearance would be 650,000 cwt/month, however usage has dropped to 400,000 cwt. to try and stretch the crop out to the end. Fresh prices are good with $3.75/10-pound bag on coloured varieties and $3.65/10-pound bag on russets. GRI’s are in the $16 to $20 range. Storage issues are prevalent. Given a smaller size profile this year, Quebec would like to see the 2inch minimum size requirement extended after September 30th through out the rest of the year (instead of the current 2 ¼ in. minimum). With a 22.7% reduction in processing stocks; the local French fry processor is finding it difficult to get enough potatoes to run at full capacity. It is a similar situation with chip factories. The French fry contract is in the second year of a two-year agreement, however chip contracts are being negotiated now. Growers felt the Frito Lay offer was below their expectations and have decided to go to mediation instead. Although seed stocks are above last year, 90 per cent of the seed was already sold by January. Quality is good. Quebec growers, who purchased crop insurance, have claimed losses this year and in addition the Quebec Potato Producers Association has applied for Agri-Recovery Assistance to help 10 growers who were severely affected this year.

Ontario yields were below average last year, resulting in current total stocks 12.6 per cent below last year. Fresh stocks are 35 per cent below March 2018, which would be the lowest since 2008. Given the short supply of no. 1 product this year, more “alternatives” (imperfect, no. 2, etc.) have been entering the market this winter. Chip processing contracts have been negotiated this year and increases awarded in one-year deals.

Manitoba fresh
Fresh stocks on March 1 are down 37 per cent compared to a year ago, due a 30-per-cent reduction in yield combined with storage losses. These are the lowest in the last  seven years. Prices are currently almost double last year, in the $34-cwt. range. A lot of product was moved fast early in the season, but now has to be slowed to maintain supply for long-term customers. As a result, Manitoba is shipping far fewer potatoes into the United States. 

Manitoba processing 
Process movement has been strong as indicated by a 19.4 per cent reduction in stocks compared to a year ago. These holdings are the lowest since the 2011 crop. The strong movement has occurred even with significant plant down time (the McCain plant in Portage la Prairie was down for three weeks to carry out upgrades to raw receiving, and the Simplot plant in Portage was down for 11 days to remove snow off the roof of the plant that was blowing from the newly constructed section). Storage issues are prevalent and there are still some frost-damaged lots that have been stored below 45 F to try and keep them until spring. Growers who purchased crop insurance are submitting claims this year, and the province has also applied to the Agri-Recovery Program for assistance. Potatoes are being imported from Alberta and the United States. 1.3 million hundredweight may be needed to keep plants running until new crop startup on Aug. 7-8. Keystone Potato Producers have had initial contract negotiation meetings with each party putting out positions. A lot of storages are being priced out now for the JR Simplot expansion and some have already built sheds to accommodate additional supply. Equipment is being installed now in the new factory, and Simplot hopes to start up in January of 2020. Seed holdings are down 22 per cent in Manitoba, and will likely create tight supply, as growers require additional stocks for the process expansion.

Overall, March stocks are down four per cent lower than a year ago and processing holdings are 8.4 per cent less, likely related to large volumes of potatoes being exported to Prince Edward Island and Manitoba. This has supplemented down time from the McCain factory has been down for three weeks due to scheduled maintenance. Alberta points out that their good crop and fortune this year was due to a “couple of degrees and a couple of days,” that other areas did not happen to receive. Some of the lots dug after the cold weather came around in terms of color and others did not, having to go to feedlots for cattle use. Product imported from Idaho was being trans loaded in Alberta and moving east to P.E.I. The Cavendish Farms plant expansion is progressing and the opening is now expected in the timeframe from July 29 to August 29. The expansion will require an additional 6,500 acres this spring. Potatoes are just one of several crop options in Alberta, and growers are increasingly spending more time analyzing which ones bring most profitability to their individual operations. In addition to return on investment; sustainability and grower health, are key components of future expansion plans. Seed holdings in Alberta are 12 per cent above last year and are needed to supply additional markets in P.E.I., N.B., Florida and Washington. Seed quality is good, however some growers are closely watching late harvested storages.

British Columbia
BC is the only province in Canada with more potatoes in storage than a year ago. However, they wish to point out that last year’s crop was a very poor one and a more accurate comparison would be a three- or five-year average. On March 1, British Columbia holdings were 29 per cent above their three-year average. The 2018 crop was originally predicted to be down, but it filled storages. Many growers have moved to irrigation which helped get through the summer weather. With great demand, trucks have been moving product east and some storages are being emptied ahead of schedule. Quality is good and prices are well above last year.

For further information please contact Kevin MacIsaac This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .
Published in News
The Alberta Irrigation Districts Association (AIDA) announced the release of the Irrigation District Water Quality data tool which provides online access to water quality information collected within Alberta irrigation infrastructure. The information accessed shows that the quality of Alberta’s irrigation water is generally excellent.
Published in News
Marie-Claude Bibeau became Canada’s first female federal Minister of Agriculture during Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s cabinet shuffle on Mar. 1, 2019.
Published in News
The federal government unveiled its 2019 budget on March 26, including several announcements that are notable for the agriculture sector.
Published in Business & Policy
Hundreds of potato growers gathered in February at the P.E.I. Potato Conference to talk about everything from soil health to alternative irrigation as well as the effects of climate change.
Published in News
Potatoes in Canada is joining with Annex Business Media’s other agriculture publications to conduct a survey to gain a better understanding of the future of Canadian farming.
Published in News
Creative solutions are needed in the battle against bacterial diseases in potato. In people, most bacterial diseases are treated with antibiotics, but due to the rise in resistant bacterial strains, that option, apart from a few exceptions, is off the table for field-scale agriculture.
Published in Diseases
Variable-rate applications of crop inputs can offer significant benefits for the crop, the environment and the grower’s bottom line. So Aitazaz Farooque is leading a research program that is tackling the challenge of developing practical systems that accurately determine what inputs to apply, how much to apply and where to apply them for potato production in the Maritimes.
Published in Weed Control
In Ontario, the hot summer temperatures in 2018 reduced potato yields even under irrigation. A few cases of heat necrosis and/or calcium deficiency due to drought and heat stress were also reported. The hot, dry start for potatoes in many parts of Canada, combined with challenging harvest conditions that left many unharvested acres, resulted in lower overall production.
Earlier this year, Syngenta Canada announced the launch of Orondis Gold Potato fungicide for the suppression of two common storage diseases, pink rot and Pythium leak, in potatoes.
Published in Chemicals
Orondis Potato Gold has been registered as an in-furrow treatment at planting for pink rot and Pythium leak or as a foliar application to control late blight. It’s one or the other, not both. So, what’s the best choice?
Published in Chemicals
Ontario’s Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) released its Guide to Weed Control for Hort Corp for 2019. The guide is now available online.
Published in News
Cavendish Farms in New Annan, P.E.I., which processes potatoes into french fries, is importing what it says is a "record number" of potatoes from other locations to the Island this winter.
Published in News
As of Feb. 5, 2019, 250 Canadian potato growers have participated in the Canadian Potato Council’s survey on mancozeb use, which will be submitted to the Pest Management Regulatory Agency (PMRA) to assist with the re-evaluation of the fungicide.

The proposed final re-evaluation decision for mancozeb, which suggests cancelling all uses of mancozeb except on tobacco due to unacceptable risks to human health and the environment, was published on Oct. 5, 2018, with a three-month consultation period. The Canadian Horticultural Council and the Canadian Potato Council were granted an additional 60-day period after the consultation deadline to gather more information on how growers use mancozeb for horticultural crops, including potatoes.

The council released a survey that Canadian growers could complete online or by hard copy to gather more information during this period. The purpose of the survey is to gather grower provided data that is “highly representative of how mancozeb is used in potato production overall across Canada and within each province.”

“Specifically, mancozeb use rates, number of applications, the use of aerial application under irrigated and non-irrigated potato production and the effectiveness of chemical and non-chemical alternative controls will be determined,” explained David Jones, manager of potato industry coordination with the Canadian Potato Council.

As of Jan. 25, 2019 , only 16 of 135 total survey responses were from Manitoba. During Manitoba Potato Production Days in Brandon, producers, especially from the province and Alberta, were encouraged to participate in the survey to include how they use mancozeb so the PMRA could make a nuanced decision.

In the Prairie provinces, producers often use aerial applications for fungicides because of the nature of the landscape and the lower population compared to Eastern Canada. “But Manitoba has higher humidity, somewhat similar to some of the eastern provinces, so we’ve got a situation where we have a lot of fungicide applications due to our climate, but we also do those by air because of our topography,” said Darin Gibson, president and research agronomist at Gaia Consulting and presenter at Manitoba Potato Production Days.

The grower survey sought to include the variety of ways producers use the fungicide so that PMRA’s decision would be reflective of the fungicide’s use in Canada. “[Aerial applications] will be considered differently and I’m not sure how that affects the final outcome, but it’s important that PMRA has the best information possible about how these products are used across the country, otherwise they make assumptions about the worst case scenario,” Gibson said.

“[The survey’s] highly representative data will provide quantitative information that PMRA can use to verify or correct assumptions that they have previously used in their assessment of risk associated with mancozeb use in potatoes,” Jones added. “The desired outcome is that the collected data will contribute to revised risk assessments that are favourable to the continued use of mancozeb in potatoes.”

The proposed re-evaluation decision removed the original exception that allowed for foliar application of mancozeb on potatoes and will have a great impact on potato growers.

Currently, mancozeb is one of the most economical broad-spectrum fungicides for early and late blight. Not only is the price point attractive, but because it is a multi-site fungicide, there is a low risk of diseases developing resistance to mancozeb.

“One of the problems is when you lose some of these products to regulatory issues, you end up depending on some of these single-site fungicides, which have a much higher risk of resistance,” Gibson said.

Currently, multi-site fungicides, like mancozeb, chlorothalonil, or metiram, are the base for any potato fungicide program because there’s little risk of diseases developing resistance to these fungicides. Gibson explained that if mancozeb is removed from the growers’ toolbox, growers would have to switch to single-site products, such as either an early blight product or a late blight product. The cost of production will increase because growers will have to tank mix two products; each of those products being more expensive than mancozeb.

Mancozeb is not banned in the European Union or in the United States, having undergone its own re-evaluations in those countries in 2018 and 2005 respectively. Gibson said he’s cautiously optimistic. “It's going to end up in somewhat of a compromise where it'll be maybe three to five applications, hopefully more, but I'm optimistic that it's not going to end up at zero.”

The mancozeb use survey is available until Feb. 8, with anything submitted on Feb. 8 being accepted.

Since the low Prairie producers response numbers reported at the end of January, Jones said growers organizations in Manitoba and Alberta (KPPA, Peak, PGA) have made good effort to remind growers directly about the importance of participating in the Council’s survey. “The response from growers in Alberta and Manitoba has been excellent, representing about a third of the total responses received to date. The response rate is similar to the percentage of planted acres in those two provinces as a percentage of the total Canadian acres planted. This would indicate that the survey responses are highly indicative of potato production in Alberta and Manitoba,” Jones said.

“It's an important issue for Manitoba growers and it's just one of the important tools that growers have for protecting their potato crop and if they were to lose that one, they'll still be able to grow potatoes, but it's going to be more difficult and more expensive,” Gibson said. “So it's really important that growers get their information to the Hort Council so that can be passed on to PMRA, so they can hopefully keep an important tool for their production.”

The survey is available online, or by hard copy that could be submitted via email or fax. To complete the survey, visit
Published in News
BASF launches its Sefina insecticide for use on soybean and potato crops in 2019 to protect against aphid pests.
Published in News
Manitoba Agriculture Minister Ralph Eicher provided an update on the expansion of J.R. Simplot Company’s (Simplot) french fry processing plant in Portage la Prairie at Manitoba Ag Days in Brandon.
Published in News
Syngenta Canada announced the launch of Orondis Gold Potato fungicide for the suppression of two common storage diseases, pink rot and Pythium leak, in potatoes, on Jan. 14, 2019.
Published in News
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.
Published in Storage
A province in Western Canada could dethrone Prince Edward Island as the country’s top potato-producing region.
Published in News
The Bank of Montreal has launched a financial relief program for potato farmers affected by P.E.I.’s adverse weather during the 2018 harvest.
Published in News
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