Ontario Potato Board elects new chair

Spore traps to detect late blight in potatoes have been upgraded to be more user-friendly and to withstand harsher weather conditions in the field says manufacturer Sporometrics.
The Ontario Potato Board has elected a new chair for 2019. He’s Shawn Brenn, Brenn-B Farms, Waterdown, Ontario. Photo by Glenn Lowson

The Ontario Potato Board has elected Shawn Brenn, Brenn-B Farms, Waterdown, Ontario as its new chair for 2019.  He replaces Glen Squirrell, who has chaired the board for 10 years. 


The new board of directors was announced at the annual general meeting on December 5 in Guelph, Ontario. It includes: Harry Bradley, vice-chair; and directors Jamie Lundy; Bert Tupling; Brad Blizman and Glen Squirrell.  


Here are other news highlights:


• Agricorp’s senior industry specialist Arlie McFaul underlined the importance of crop insurance. 

He reported that 20 Ontario processing growers representing 10,00 acres currently have crop insurance. Of those growers, most buy at the 90 per cent coverage rate. Claims paid for 2017 totalled $1.6 million. 

For the fresh market,  24 growers are covered representing 3,600 acres. Most of these growers are taking 80 per cent coverage with a smaller portion taking 90 per cent and lower coverage levels. The fresh market plan has two price options with a little larger portion of growers selecting the higher price option. Total claims in 2017 were $478,000. Adjusters are in the process of collecting yields to determine any 2018 claims.  About 41 per cent of Ontario’s 2018 potato acres carried crop insurance.   

“When you look at what’s happened in other provinces this fall, it’s advisable to get coverage,” says McFaul. “It’s easy to adjudicate when storages are empty.”


• The University of Guelph’s potato researcher Vanessa Currie announced that Professor Alan Sullivan has retired. However, he is replaced by potato plant pathologist Dr. Katarina Jordan.  She also relayed the news from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada that the Accelerated Potato Release Program is being revamped. There will be no release of new potato varieties in February 2019.  “The changes are positive and the breeding program will be stronger and more useful,” says Currie. 


• The Ontario Potato Board’s consultant Eugenia Banks reported on the spore traps used to detect late blight. Filters were changed twice a week and couriered to A & L Laboratories. A positive polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test indicates the presence of late blight spores at low, medium or high levels. She clarified that PCR tests do not identify the late blight strain. With further testing at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada laboratory in Lethbridge, Alberta, Dr. Larry Kawchuk confirmed that US 23 strain was the prevalent strain in Ontario.


Monitoring with spore traps was extended in 2018 from Alliston and Shelburne to include Leamington and Simcoe.  In 2019, the Ontario Potato Board will collaborate with Sporometrics, the trap manufacturer, on a new loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) system that will detect potato late blight pathogen DNA in the field.


“LAMP can be done in the field because it is carried out at a constant temperature in contrast to the polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology,” explains Banks. “With PCR technology, the reaction is carried out with a series of alternating temperature steps or cycles.”  


This 2019 pilot will evaluate and compare LAMP data with laboratory results.

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Publish date: 
Thursday, December 6, 2018

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