An estimated 30 per cent of potatoes were still in the fields when temperatures dipped to below 10 degrees Celsius in mid-October, topping off two weeks of unseasonably cold weather. Some producers are attempting to manage frozen potatoes in storage, while others have decided to opt out of any further harvest attempts.
Even for farmers with insurance, the abandoned acres still have a huge financial impact on farmers.
Despite frost and rain disturbing harvest progress, Manitoba potato crop has had a relatively good disease year. There was no late blight found in Manitoba and the season was remarkable for very low aphid numbers and low levels of early blight, according to Dr. Vikram Bisht's Potato Disease report for Manitoba Agriculture. However, black dot incidence was extensive and there was widespread Verticillium wilt earlier than normal in many fields.
As of the first week of October, Kevin MacIsaac estimated the PEI harvest was approximately 15-20 per cent complete. READ MORE
Over the next week most growers across P.E.I. should start harvesting and storing potatoes, Donald said. Farmers will get a better idea of the yield closer to Halloween when the harvest ends. READ MORE
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.
The warm conditions has slowed the harvest of some processing fields, to prevent bringing warm tubers into storage. The seasonal accumulated precipitation has been 50-70% of normal in the potato growing areas (Fig1). The soils are generally on the dry side (Fig 2), but irrigated fields have sufficient moisture for a good harvest. READ MORE
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. 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.
Sept. 29, 2016 – Second growth is a physiological potato problem induced by soil temperatures of 24 C or above and water stress. These two factors interact to limit the tuber growth rate, causing second growth. Inadequate soil moisture alone does not result in the initiation of second growth.
Heat and drought prevailed during the 2016 Ontario growing season, which explains why second growth has been reported in some fields.
Potato varieties differ in their susceptibility to second growth. European varieties appear to be more susceptible because they were bred and evaluated in countries where the growing seasons are rarely hot.
There are three distinct types of second growth:
Tuber chaining: A series of small tubers are produced on a single stolon.
Heat sprouts: Sprouts develop from stolons or daughter tubers. The sprouts may emerge from the hills developing into leafy stems.
Secondary Tuber: Small tubers form on daughter tubers. The secondary tubers are formed on short sprouts or directly on the tuber surface. This disorder is usually associated with physiologically old potatoes. High temperatures and water stress during the growing season are major factors contributing to the physiological aging of potatoes.
Cultural practices that promote uniform growth of plants and tubers throughout the season help minimize second growth. Among them are:
● Do not plant physiologically old seed in cold, dry soil.
● Space seed pieces as uniformly as possible at planting.
● Apply an adequate amount of fertilizers.
● Maintain uniform soil moisture sufficient to meet crop needs (this was easier said than done this past season!).
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