A Belgian project is gaining insight in potato crop development and quality during extreme weather conditions. An agricultural side experiment of the project, coordinated by Flemish Institute for Technological Research (VITO) Remote Sensing, investigates the impact of extreme weather on the cultivation of potatoes. Some 500 smart sensors were installed in 295 potato fields across Flanders.
Potato harvest is well underway in Canada, with varying results from a near-record harvest to too-short in supply. “Moving from east to west, the season is always later. We have more time in the east to allow the crop to get harvested before winter sets in, in a normal year,” says Kevin MacIsaac, of United Potato Growers of Canada. After three years of below average crops in the area due to warm, dry conditions, a good quality crop is welcome for farmers on the East Coast. Heading into Western Canada, the drought has been detrimental to yields.
The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) reports that markets and consumption in Ireland remain buoyant as consumers are back to work and school. Colder weather has also stabilised retail sales. Across Europe, first harvester liftings of maincrop indicate that yields are only going to be average at best and wastage levels are likely to be higher than normal, due to the adverse growing conditions this year.
Sizing looks to be an issue in new crop potatoes from Idaho this season. Ryan Wahlen of Pleasant Valley Potato in Aberdeen, ID says it’s been in new crop now for just under three weeks. “We started about a week later than normal,” he told Astrid Van Den Broek of FreshPlaza. “The heat we experienced this summer just delayed things. We were hoping to get a little bit more size out of the potatoes so we waited a week. But even with that, the size and the yields weren’t there.”
Producers across Western Canada are optimistic they can still produce a good crop this fall if the weather co-operates, reports Alex McCuaig for The Western Producer. It’s been a reversal of fortunes for Canada’s potato growers this year as last year’s dry season in the East moves west. Not all Manitoba growers have escaped the heat that has plagued producers across the West, especially those farming on dryland.
Heat and dryness have been the story of the summer this year in southern Idaho. With record heat, crops — including Idaho’s most famous crop — have seen effects in numerous ways, reports Nicholas Snider for KMVT. “I’m not saying that Idaho won’t have any of the bigger potatoes they’re famous for,” says Sean Ellis, a spokesman for the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation. “There’s just not going to be as many this year.”
Potato growers in the UK are starting to lift a crop that has weathered difficult conditions and is being sold into an uncertain market, writes Cedric Porter in an article for Farmers Guardian. Porter says most potatoes were planted in very good conditions as the wet winter gave way to a drier spring just in time. But it was one of the coldest April’s on record, followed by a very wet May and then a mixed summer with some heat but plenty of rain.
Randy Hardy, of Oakley, is not alone among Idaho farmers in his assessment that the potato crop he’ll soon harvest will be the worst of his career. Spud farmers conducting test digs or early harvest are uprooting plants supporting no tubers. Where there are spuds, there are fewer than normal, and most of the tubers are undersized and misshapen.
This year’s drought is on its way to becoming the worst the Prairies have ever recorded and the worst ever in Canada, according to John Pomeroy, Canada research chair in water resources and climate change at the University of Saskatchewan. It is already worse than a severe drought in 1961, he said. “It’s early to call it the most severe [drought] at this point, but it certainly has all the hallmarks of heading in that direction.”
Harvest season is underway across the northwest, and farmers in some areas are seeing smaller spuds and onions because of excessive heat earlier this summer. Ben Josephson of Idaho Falls-based Wada Farms said it’s too early to know for sure how everything will turn out this harvest, but so far, some of the Idaho Russets coming out of the ground near Mountain Home and Bruneau are smaller than usual.
Last month was not only the hottest July on record, it was also the hottest month ever recorded on Earth, according to a new report by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. “This new record adds to the disturbing and disruptive path that climate change has set for the globe,” NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said.
In an effort to provide growers with predictive, real-time field datato help them better manage their time and resources, EarthScout® GBC is officially entering the precision agriculture field. EarthScout’s founders along with a team of leading agronomists, precision agriculturalists, and technologists worked alongside growers to develop an in-field sensing technology that collects predictive micro-climate and soil data and shares it wirelessly via a mobile app.
The Daily Mail reports that the UK is facing a shortage of chips due to high demand for British potatoes from the Continent. According to the report, experts predict the British crop will be in short supply after floods decimated potato production in Europe. A report revealed frozen chips are likely to be particularly affected – with a warning of steep price rises.
Farmer Ambassador: ‘Farmers like me want to join the fight against climate change. But we need help’
Vanessa Kummer is a farmer from Colfax, North Dakota. She is a Farmer Ambassador with Farm Journal Foundation. In a recent article published as a CNN Opinion piece, she writes: The agricultural industry is often misunderstood by the general public, and we haven’t always been credited for being forward thinking on climate change. However today, more farmers recognize the evidence around us and are turning the tide. …To truly move the needle, the government needs to provide more support.”
According to Wilson’s Country agronomist Stuart Meredith, up to 30% of potato crops in the Republic of Ireland are now being irrigated in order to maintain yields. The equivalent figure for Northern Ireland is 10%. The continuing warm spell has created significant moisture deficit challenges for most Irish potato crops.
Growing conditions across the country seem to have reversed regionally from a year ago. This year the four main growing provinces in eastern and central Canada have received good moisture levels to date, while the four western provinces have been extremely hot and dry. Kevin MacIsaac, General Manager United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC) provides an up to date summary of crop growth across the country.
Last year not a good year for potato farmers in Maine. Dry weather and the pandemic saw to that, but this year things seem to be turning around for them. This year growers are expecting a bigger yield, says University of Maine crop ecology professor Greg Porter. “There’s optimism that there’ll be a good supply here of good quality potatoes and that the market will be there to take those potatoes,” he says.
A good spraying programme could help keep disease pressures at bay, agronomists have warned. As Claire Taylor reports for The Scottish Farmer, dry conditions experienced this April, followed by a very wet May, has resulted in taxing conditions for potato and cereal growers UK.
Europatat is part of an international consortium involved in the research project ADAPT (“Accelerated Development of multiple-stress tolerAnt PoTato”), which aims to develop new strategies for making potatoes fit for the challenging production conditions of the future. ADAPT asked farmers about their perception of climate change, their experiences concerning its impact on potato production, and their need for adapted potato varieties. Almost 90% of the survey respondents indicated that climate change had affected their potato production in the last 10 years, and almost 50% defined climatic change as a threat to maintain potato production at their farms.
This week, Randy Russell, founder of The Russell Group, which manages the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, joins the NPC Eye on Potatoes podcast to talk about how the FACA coalition got started and why it was so important that potato growers have taken a seat at the table. In May, the podcast was joined by Mark Klompien, President and CEO of United Potato Growers of America, who informed listeners about the fresh market outlook.
Canada has recorded its highest ever temperature as the country’s west and the US Pacific north-west frazzle in an unprecedented heatwave. The US and Canada have both warned citizens of “dangerous” heat levels that could persist this week. A “heat dome” – static high pressure acting like a lid on a cooking pot – has set records in many other areas. This high pressure zone is huge, from California right up to Canada’s Arctic territories and stretching inland through Idaho.
As the Magic Valley prepares for potentially record setting heat this week, farmers, potato researchers and dairy scientists are all voicing concerns. Nora Olsen, University of Idaho professor and extension potato specialist, said heat on top of longer days can be a lot for any crop, including potatoes. In high temperatures, potatoes will shut down and stop growing. This can cause situations of start and stop growth patterns that are not ideal for growing potatoes. “We are like pulling our hair out right now trying to figure out how to irrigate the crop,” she says.
East of the Cascades, growers are scrambling to get ready for a heat wave that could bring a peak temperature Tuesday of 113 degrees in Yakima and hang around until at least Friday, when a high of 107 is forecast. The heat wave is forecast to absorb a broad swath of irrigated farm country in Eastern Washington. In Othello, a prime potato-growing region, high temperatures are forecast by the National Weather Service to reach 112 on Tuesday.
Growers without access to irrigation systems are being encouraged to follow the lead of one Lincolnshire farmer in the UK who has embraced seaweed to help his crop fend off the effects of heat stress. Since 2018, the Louth Potato Company has used a seaweed-based biostimulant to counter the impact of extreme weather conditions. Ryan Wrisdale has been applying Algifol regularly to his winter wheat, pumpkins, and potatoes. He says the results have been amazing.
Potato crops around the UK are entering the highest threat level for blight, writes Gordon Davidson in this news story for The Scottish Farmer. Hutton Criteria disease warnings were declared in key potato-growing areas, as the AHDB’s BlightSpy tool put growers across the East, South East and South West of England, the whole of Wales and South West Scotland on alert.
With resistance to fluazinam now established in the blight populations in the UK and a continuing shift towards more aggressive P. infestans populations such as 36_A2 and 37_A2, a robust resistance management strategy is essential to safeguard crops. SRUC specialist in blight epidemiology Dr. Ruairidh Bain, believes that spray coverage is one of the key factors of the blight control programme that needs to be improved to protect potato crops.