Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of United Potato Growers of Canada, issued the following pan-Canadian report on October 5.
Prince Edward Island: The summer of 2018 has been extremely dry, and poor growing conditions continued in the month of September. Some early variety fields had started to show their age early due to stressful growing conditions. Tuber set appears to be down and sampling throughout the season showed the crop to be almost two weeks behind normal. The crop needed an open fall with favourable growing conditions and extended time to allow late season varieties to bulk up. Unfortunately, most areas of PEI experienced a very early vine-killing frost on Sept. 24 with temperatures dipping below zero to -1 °C. Growth in many green fields of Russet Burbank’s was halted. Rain finally came in the last week but it was too much, too late! Some areas received over 100 mm. Yield and quality are expected to be quite variable across the Island. It is still too early to get a handle on overall yield, however it will definitely be below average again this year, and less than last year’s yield of 284cwt./acre. Main harvest has only been in progress for two days after being stalled by rain this week, so as of Oct. 5, only about 10 per cent has been harvested. Shipments of new crop are going at a similar pace, with prices above last year.
New Brunswick: After a hot dry growing season, yields appear to be coming in below last year’s. Tuber set is down providing fairly good size on the earlier varieties, but also lower tonnage. Some fields with a higher set do have more tonnage. The quality does not seem as good as last year, with issues of hollow heart, off type, and smalls. The higher dockage is also a contributing factor to overall lower yields. Early Shepody harvest has been disappointing, with hollow heart dockage. In a reverse pattern this year, the lower St. John River Valley received better moisture levels than the Grand Falls area. As a result, yields appear higher in Carleton County than Victoria County. Russet Burbank quality seems a little rougher and hollow heart is prevalent. Size profile also appears smaller on Russet Burbank, as the crop needed additional rainfall to complete tuber bulking. New Brunswick also received early freezing temperatures on Sept. 24, with weather stations in Grand Falls reporting -6.5 °Cand Woodstock reporting -4 °C. Last year’s yield came in at 294cwt./acre. This year’s appears to be lower with a very wide range of reported yields. As of Oct. 5, harvest is about 45 per cent complete.
Quebec: The potato crop in Quebec has experienced a hot and dry summer which has lowered both yield and size profile, compared to a year ago. A killing frost occurred the week of Oct. 5 in the Saguenay and Lac St.-Jean area, eliminating any further growth. In general, the size profile is smaller and percentage of jumbo or oversize tubers is not expected to exceed 25 per cent. Although some rain was received in Sept., it came too late for varieties such as Goldrush, resulting in a smaller size. Quebec growers have considered asking the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to extend the minimum size grade requirement from 2.25 inches to 2-inch minimum. Some non-irrigated regions have now experienced two dry seasons. Areas such as Bas-St-Laurent are plunged into a catastrophic situation and will need to ask the government for help through the AgriRecovery Program. Other regions such as Lac-St-Jean have yields equal to, or better than last year. Last year’s yield was 306 cwt./acre. An estimate at this time would be 285 cwt./acre, a decrease of seven per cent. Harvest as of today (October 5) is 50 per cent complete in the eastern and northern regions, and reaching 75 per cent in the more southern regions.
Ontario: The hot summer temperatures (both night and day) reduced the yield, even in irrigated fields. Processing yields range from below average to average. A few cases of heat necrosis and/or calcium deficiency due to drought and heat stress have been reported. Harvest of the processing crop into storage began on Sept. 10 with favourable conditions allowing a non-stop harvest, and storages filling fast. However, fall arrived at the end of Sept. and the harvest has been slowed this week by rain and cool weather. The weather outlook for the next seven days (following Oct. 5) is poor with rainy and cool weather expected. Process acres are 62 per cent harvested (about 12 days behind normal) and soil is wet. The hot summer temperatures also affected the yield of the fresh market crop, and the early crop has been cleaning up in an orderly manner with good quality. Some fresh growers are done harvesting while others are at the 60 to 75 per cent mark.
Manitoba: Harvest in Manitoba has been one of the most challenging ever. Following a hot, dry summer, everything changed during the second week of Sept. Rain began and the temperature has been locked in a pattern of 8 to 1 °Cbelow normal. Harvest into storage has been delayed as rain and wet conditions prevent good progress. Rainfall amounts ranged between 100 to 150 mm, without sunshine or warmth to help conditions. The first hard frost of - 6 °Con Sept. 29 resulted in minimal tuber damage on green fields, but did nip potatoes close to the surface on others. The Oct. 4 overnight temperatures of -9°Cdamaged some areas that lacked snow cover. The two-week forecast continues to call for single digit temperatures with rain and snow. Progress varies from farm to farm with a handful completed, to some at less than 30 per cent harvested. Overall estimate is 70 per cent completion. The yield is variable, but overall surprising. If harvest can be completed and storage issues avoided, supply will be adequate for processing needs.
Saskatchewan: After a hot, dry summer, the weather has moved to another extreme. The first killing frost was on Sept. 4, however temperatures dropped as low as -11 °Cthe first week of October. Snowfall may have prevented tuber damage, but growers were not so fortunate with another day reaching - 9.8 °Cand no snow cover. Harvest is stalled and at as of Oct. 5, many producers have only about 33 per cent of their acreage harvested.
Alberta: Like other western provinces, after a hot dry summer Mother Nature is challenging growers to finish their harvest operations before abnormally cool and snowy conditions set in. Harvest has been stalled, with snowfall amounts at Calgary airport reported at 35 cm on Oct. 2. Low temperatures of -8°Cin the Edmonton area and -4°Cin the Taber area have been concerning as well. Yields on the crop already harvested to date have been average to slightly above, so far. The processing crop is about 85 per cent harvested. The seed crop is average at best with a smaller size profile. Seed harvest is about 75 per cent complete.
British Columbia: The harvest started out a bit dry, but an excellent period of weather allowed about 80 per cent of the crop to be harvested. However conditions changed in mid-Sept with heavy rain moving into the province. The last 10 per cent of the acreage will be a struggle to harvest, with very wet soil conditions. Yields have been good with 300 cwt./acre estimated at this time. This would be above last year’s 285cwt./acre yields.