Average potato crop predicted in P.E.I.

Cautious optimism is the order of the day as the P.E.I. potato harvest kicks into high gear this week.

Planting was delayed due to cold and wet conditions in May, followed by drought for most of July. While many parts of the province received timely rains in August, the rainfall was variable across the province, with areas in close geographic proximity often recording dramatically different readings on the rain gauge. For example, the first major rainfall in late July saw variations between two and 40 millimetres.

“There is still a lot of concern, especially in the central part of the province and up west,” says Greg Donald, the general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board. “Some areas didn’t receive much rain even in August so we will see what happens over the next few weeks.”

Average yield projected

Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of United Potato Growers of Canada, says his organization is projecting an average yield for the province of 280 hundredweight to the acre compared to 290 in 2016.

Both MacIsaac and Donald say while rain Sept. 27 will certainly help late varieties like Russet Burbank, many fields had already been top-killed. However, it’s still welcome as the risk of bruising increases if the soil is dry during harvest.

Some early varieties were dug at the potato board's Elite Seed Farm in Fox Island in the western part of the province and the quality was good despite the dry growing conditions. “Hopefully we will be pleasantly surprised right across the board,” Donald says.

Other markets

MacIsaac notes growers in Quebec and Ontario faced unseasonably high temperatures during harvest and had to take special precautions to prevent rot in storage. He notes the early Island potatoes have been good quality, although there have been some cases of dry scab.

Donald is predicting an average or slightly below average crop and says that seems to be the story in most of the major potato growing areas of North America. He notes Alberta and the Columbia Basin of the United States had bumper crops last year and there were significant losses in the Red River Valley.

“There doesn't seem to be any big crops or any major failures,” he said. “Volume is down in Idaho and there seems to be significant demand for processing so there are some encouraging signs for the marketing season.”

Bottom line

While P.E.I. growers had a growing season to forget with wet weather delaying planting in May and a prolonged dry period in July, the industry is still expecting an average crop. However, major regional variations are still expected.

Article by: Andy Walker