Production
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.

Quebec
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
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.

Alberta
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
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
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.
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
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
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
It’s not about how you start, it’s how you finish – and this potato season is not over yet. Canadian potato producers endured a tough harvest season, especially Prairie and east coast producers who were faced with abnormally cold wet weather that delayed harvest until early November.
Published in Storage
For potato growers, one of the most concerning and costly diseases is late blight, caused by the pathogen Phytophthora infestans. Estimated to cost almost $10 billion per year worldwide, late blight spreads by spores and can spread quickly in a field. Post-harvest losses can be substantial if infected tubers are harvested and stockpiled. Like other disease pathogens, new strains and novel genotypes of P. infestans have emerged over the past few years, creating new challenges for commercial potato growers.
Published in Diseases
Eugenia Banks, Ontario potato specialist, attended a BASF meeting discussing several pesticides for potatoes will be coming through the pipeline for producers.
Published in Chemicals
The impact of the difficult harvest on the industry will be felt across all sectors - seed, table stock and processing. Crop stress, reduced yields and unharvested acres will all contribute to a national decline in potato production.
Published in Business Management
decreaseinpotatoproduction dec2018

Overall potato production in Canada dropped by 2.6 per cent, according to the latest estimate from the United Potato Growers of Canada (UPG).
Published in Harvesting
Some areas of Canada did have a tough harvest due to cold, wet conditions resulting in these areas having lower than normal production, but there's no spud shortage yet, says Terence Hochstein, executive director of the Potato Growers of Alberta (PGA). 
Published in Harvesting
A worldwide shortage of potatoes, as a result of a hot dry growing season and wet harvest, has the potential to drive up the price for potatoes.
Published in News
From stalled harvests to abandoned acres, to potential storage problems, Canadian potato growers have not had an easy harvest.
Published in Harvesting
A shortage of potatoes across Europe is pushing up the cost of crisps and chips for British shoppers.
Published in Consumer Issues
Cavendish Farms is asking the P.E.I. government to double land ownership limits for potato farmers warning of threats to the 'long-term sustainability' of the industry due to decreasing yields.
Published in News
Cold wet October weather in P.E.I. is making harvest difficult for eastern producers.
Published in News
Page 1 of 7

Subscription Centre

 
New Subscription
 
Already a Subscriber
 
Customer Service
 
View Digital Magazine Renew

Most Popular

Sponsored: MicroVent Vision Works with Any Storage System Design
With a myriad of potato storage systems out there ...
Sponsored: MicroVent Vision Offers Flexibility in Potato Storage
When it comes to controlling your potato storage v...

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.