Agronomy Update – June 11th

Hi everyone,

From my phone calls with growers over the last couple of days, it sounds like most farms are either done planting or will finish right away.  I understand that planting was a challenge on some farms due to excessive moisture or equipment issues, but the soil conditions and weather at the moment should be advantageous to the potato crop getting off to a great start.


Measuring Potato Emergence:

I’m seeing lots of photos of potato plants starting to emerge across the province.  It’s a good idea to do actual emergence counts in your field to help with management decisions.  Low emergence rates may be indicative of a seed issue that needs to be investigated.  Low emergence rates on some varieties may result in a very uneven size distribution in resultant tubers, so that may impact when you decide to topkill.  If blackleg is an issue, you’ll want to know that before harvest so you can segregate affected fields/areas of fields to prevent further contamination or tuber rot in storage.  For some varieties, poor emergence may be indicative of too many blind sets, requiring you to reassess your seed cutting program.

Emergence counts are easily done directly in the field…but don’t pick just one or two rows to do emergence counts on, as a fertilizer issue or a site-specific field issue may impact those numbers.  Spread out your sample across the field.  There are also a number of growers measuring emergence with drone imagery as well to get a good snapshot of the whole field and identify if there is variation across the field.

If you do investigate some unemerged seed pieces and are curious about what’s causing an issue, feel free to contact Marleen Clark at the Provincial Lab to submit a sample.  Always better to have more information to base your decisions on!


Managing Forage Crops:

A few calls in the last couple of days about planting warm-season grasses like sudangrass and pearl millet.  Given that soil temps are pretty consistently over 15C now and the long range looks pretty warm, growers can likely look at planting those heat-loving grasses anytime now.  Don’t plant much more than an inch deep (as long as there is some decent soil moisture) to encourage quick emergence.

Lots of reports of terrific looking hay/silage crops around the province this year.  The spring weather has suited forage crops for quick growth and great quality.  These ideal conditions for forage crops serve as a great baseline to help diagnose issues with fields.

  • Do you have a field that is very uneven from side to side or front to back?  Might be evidence of compaction issues, pH issues, or fertility issues.
  • Lots of grass but not a lot of alfalfa/clover in your mix?  Check your pH and your potassium (K) levels.
  • Nothing came very well this spring at all?  There might be some core fertility issues with your field, low organic matter, or the forage just wasn’t able to establish well enough in the dry conditions last summer.  Also, really poor stands over the whole field might be evidence of a herbicide carryover effect…check the label on your herbicides for plant-back restrictions and rotation recommendations.

Pay attention to your forage fields…they might help you figure out how to improve them ahead of the next potato crop.


SpudChat:  PVY with Mathuresh Singh

This week’s episode of SpudChat is on PVY management with Dr. Mathuresh Singh from ACS Lab in New Brunswick.  Mathuresh and his team have been doing great work in the last ten years to help growers identify the seed production practices most associated with reducing and preventing the spread of PVY.  This podcast is a good refresher on some of the best management practices for PVY.  Key among them…early application of mineral oils, as early as 25% emergence!  Check out the podcast here or wherever you download podcasts.


Cull Piles – Get Them Covered!

Just a friendly reminder that cull piles need to be covered or buried by June 15th (by regulation from the PEI Dept of Ag).  Cull piles can be sources of early blight, late blight, or PVY inoculum if not properly managed, so it’s very important not to let plants establish in those piles!

Also, it’s very likely that we’ll be seeing more volunteers this year, given the mild winter without a lot of depth of frost in some areas.  Keep an eye on your fields for volunteers and try and eliminate them as best as you can, as they can also be a source for disease and virus spread.

Have a great weekend, everyone.