As the countdown to harvest began, the mid-September report from the United Potato Growers of Canada showed diverse conditions across the country.
After a hot dry summer, the PEI crop received rain in the last week of August. The United general manager noted the western part of the province received 90 millimetres in the week before Hurricane Dorian and a further 100 millimetres from the storm.
"The soils seem to have been able to absorb the water, however hurricane force winds in excess of 100 km/hr. have created some leaf and stem damage," Kevin MacIsaac said. "Chip varieties seem to have been more susceptible."
The eastern part of the province only received 15mm while the Charlottetown area received 48mm from the hurricane path. MacIsaac, who is a former chair of the PEI Potato Board, noted dig samples show yields ahead of last year, with a big gain in the second week of September (40+cwt.). However he said the crop still needs three weeks of growth without further rain or early frost to make accurate predictions. At this time there is good potential for an average crop. Some growers report a heavier set this year which has been slowing the sizing of the tubers.
"The early fresh harvest has been light with reported yields down 50cwt./acre. Fresh shipments are ahead of a year ago with most volume destined for local and regional markets," he said. "Fresh prices are similar to last year, around $3.10/10lb. fob PEI. Chip volume is moving into the valley plant and early processing contracts are being delivered to the Cavendish Farms French fry plant. "
The general manager said Nova Scotia was hit hard by Hurricane Dorian and heavy rains caused washouts and erosion in fields. He added "High winds were the more significant issue for other crop growers driving apples and other fruit to the ground. Buildings and other infrastructure were badly damaged in addition to the loss of electricity for several days. "
Turning to New Brunswick, he said yields look good, but variable, based on the usual growing season differences within the province from north to south. Digs on Goldrush are approaching the 260cwt. mark as they begin to wind down. The general manager said fall contracts for early processing are being delivered to local processing plants and also to fry plants outside the province.
"After experiencing a hot, dry summer, Quebec has received timely rains in the southern part with good size and yields expected in the Joliette area. In the north, temperatures have cooled off in the Lac-St. Jean area allowing good bulking conditions," he said. "At this time the overall crop in Quebec is looking really good with some digs currently reaching 400 hundred weight."
The Quebec Board recommended price is at $3.50/10lb. which is very similar to last year. Growers without storage who are currently in the market, do not anticipate any problem cleaning, up given good domestic demand and average export markets.
The general manager said the Ontario cropwas getting close to maturity in mid-September with many fields destined for storage already topkilled. There was an outbreak of late blight earlier in the season, but industry officials felt it had been brought under control in the affected area with no spread to other fields.
He noted both early table and out of field chip harvest have been ongoing for some time and "Quality has been very good in both sectors, although the yield has been variable and seems a bit more favorable in the chip than the early fresh fields. " Prices are good with recommended prices at $3.40/10lb.
Harvesting of the Manitoba processing crop has been ongoing for some time with good yields. MacIsaac noted Rangers have been yielding anywhere from 300-450 sacks/acre and there have been reports of a half circle of Ivory Russets yielding almost 500bags/acre. Growers in Manitoba like to be done harvesting their potato crop by October 1st, to prevent a recurrence of last year’s unfortunate harvest situation which saw a shortfall of 3,500,000 hundred weight on processing contracts.
The table crop in the southern part of Manitoba has been later in development, due to dryness in the growing season. He noted yields will likely be off a bit; however, producers have started topkilling in order to get their crop under cover in time and the quality looks good.
"Early digs on varieties like Umatilla’s in Alberta point to a season that was too dry and cool." MacIsaac explained. " Today’s yield estimates on the processing crop would be a five-year average. Processors are working with growers affected by the hail damage earlier on in the season to try and salvage as much crop as possible."
The general manager noted the growing season has been good in British Columbia, providing good size tubers and consistent stands. Yields are projected to be above average. Harvesting has been ongoing in the province for quite some time feeding the market with good demand and good pricing. He noted prices are about the same as last year with some strengthening on yellows and slightly lower on reds. About a quarter of the crop had been dug by mid-September and growers were hoping to complete the harvest by the end of the month