Top stories of 2019
By Potatoes in Canada
From expansions to potato storage, Potatoes in Canada recounts the top stories of this year.
By Potatoes in Canada
The top story of 2019 is the latest estimate from the United Potato Growers of Canada showing while more potatoes were planted, more were left unharvested, so the net increase in production was lower than expected.
Potato growers are not isolated from the larger struggles faced by Canada’s agriculture sector. This story – which showed just under half of farm employers can’t fill their labour needs – resonated with readers in 2019.
After a tough harvest, Manitoba leads all the other provinces in unharvested acres. In 2019, the province saw an estimated 13,000 acres of potatoes left in the ground, more than double the 5,300 acres left in 2018. Messages from across the potato industry have been coming sympathizing with the province’s growers.
Canadian seed potato storage in 2019 was less when compared to the previous year, with an overall 6.7 per cent decrease in holdings from 2018. Some of the biggest changes are seen in Ontario and Manitoba, where seed storage is down by 42.5 per cent and 17.2 per cent respectively.
This top story is bittersweet given the tough harvest faced by Manitoba producers in 2019. Manitoba is currently Canada’s second-largest potato producer, and with the Simplot expansion set for 2020, it was on its way to claiming top place until 13,000-acres were left unharvested by the end of 2019.
The United Potato Growers of Canada board of directors met in Halifax in mid-March 2019 and reviewed the potato crop and market status across Canada. At the time, they recorded that overall potato stocks for March 1, 2019 are down 11.5 per cent 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.
Of all potato pests, wireworm has proven one of the most difficult to understand. New research highlights the complexity of wireworm behaviour and the attendant difficulty of controlling the pest in the field. As few chemical controls are registered in potato against wireworm, an integrated pest management approach is essential.
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.
Late blight is always a top story given its ability to affect the industry. In mid-July, late blight was confirmed on potatoes in Wood County, Wisconsin by the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s department of plant pathology. While late blight is always worrying, a new mefenoxam-resistant strain of late blight, US-25, was found in tomatoes in August 2018. The most common strain of late blight, US-23, is still susceptible to mefenoxam-based fungicides. However, resistance to fungicides might be a lessening concern with the announcement that Simplot’s second generation of Innate potatoes were recently approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration. These potatoes are genetically modified to include resistance to late blight and will reduce the use of fungicides.
The latest update from Statistics Canada shows that Canada’s potato production is up overall, but not up to industry’s expectations. Two notable expansions, Cavendish Farm’s newest potato processing plant and Simplot’s french fry processing plant, were planned for the end of 2019 that increased the demand for potato products. Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of the United Potato Growers of Canada, said the net increase in production is much less than what the industry actually desired. How this news plays out in 2020 will have an impact on potato prices – both on the market and for seed.