Agronomy Update – September 10th

Hi everyone.  Apologies that my update is a bit late this week…a wet start to the week plus a week of field tours has slowed things down a bit from this desk.

So far today, I’m seeing rainfall totals ranging from a couple of mm to over 50 mm.  Largest numbers appear to be in Central PEI and in Kings County.  Thankfully, the long-range forecast after today looks sunny and dry for a number of days.  Here’s hoping that is the case, to allow fields to dry out and to allow still-growing plants to keep bulking and improve specific gravities before top kill.


Crop Progress:

Crop canopies have changed a lot in the last couple of weeks.  Fields that were very green and upright before the rain from Ida are now showing significant signs of senescence.  Some of the fields that we have been tracking for early dying are now showing 25 to 50% defoliation/senescence.  This being said, a number of varieties have come to the point that they should be senescing and putting max energy into tuber bulking.  In southern Kings County, the majority of acres have been topkilled and many growers are harvesting.

10 foot strips from research and variety tours I attended this week were very encouraging.  A lot more strips between 300-400 cwt/ac than we’ve seen on these tours in the last few years.  While we’re still a long way from having all the spuds in the sheds, it’s an optimistic forecast for strong yields.

With this in mind, growers will be starting to look at when it is appropriate to top-kill (if necessary) and start putting a harvest schedule together.  For many fields, trying to optimize quality and relatively dry harvest conditions will be of higher consideration than leaving fields to bulk, given that most crops are further ahead in development than recent years.

A few things to keep in mind as you are making those pre-harvest preparations:

  • Maintain good two-way communication with your customers with regards to quality specs, recommended harvest/top-kill dates, etc.  Particularly if growing a new variety that might need to be managed in a slightly different way.
  • A few newer processing varieties (ie. Payette Russet, Clearwater) can show a bit more susceptibility to Fusarium dry rot, particularly if handled a bit roughly.  Avoiding drops and impact points is key for all varieties, but use of a post-harvest treatment (ie. Stadium) may be worth considering for these varieties.
  • Keep an eye out for tuber rot issues (pink rot, blackleg, Pythium) as potatoes go into storage.  If levels are high, ensure you adapt your storage/ventilation plan to deal with those issues.
  • I hear from a lot of growers that they have already been marking out wet spots where water has been standing and that they have a plan to dig those acres last or not at all.  A very sensible plan of action.  Avoid where possible taking any compromised crop into storage that has the potential to jeopardize your high quality crop.
  • I hope that the weather will cooperate so that the majority of acres don’t have to be dug under wet conditions.  Not only does this slow down digging and mean more soil making its way into the storage, it is also a recipe for introducing compaction into fields.  Keep this in mind as well as your make your harvest plans this fall.
  • Early dug acres provide more choices for cover crops, including crops like winter wheat which can return an income next year.  I heard lots of report of great winter wheat yields this summer.


Disease/Spore Update:

Once again this week, we detected no late blight spores in our Spornado traps across the province.  There were also no late blight spore detected by AirSpore.

The number of sites continuing with AirSpore testing has reduced substantially (as many participating farms have begun top-killing) but Alternaria spore counts are also quite low.  However, Bortrytis (grey mold) spores are sky high, unsurprisingly.  I have seen evidence of grey mold in multiple varieties in the past two weeks.  For those planning their next couple of late season fungicide sprays, use of a product like chlorothanonil would be useful for helping to slow down grey mold progression and maintain a healthy, natural senescence of the crop.


SpudChat:  Shaun Haney of RealAgriculture

On this week’s episode of SpudChat, I talk with Shaun Haney, founder of RealAgriculture and their growing stable of podcasts and livestream shows, including RealAg Radio.  It was a great conversation from one of the leaders in agriculture media/podcasting.  You can listen at or wherever you download your podcasts.


Lastly, I just want to say that in conversations with growers over the past few weeks, it is encouraging to hear reports that yield and quality looks so encouraging.  Growers deserve a great crop.  You all put so much work and expertise into growing high quality potatoes and the collective improvements that you’ve all made over the years will hopefully be reflected in the crop you dig this fall. 

Morgan and I will be starting soil sampling on some fields next week and starting to schedule potato yield samples as soon as fields are ready to dig.  Please ensure that if you have a trial with us that you let us know before you have to do any harvesting or ploughing to make sure we don’t lose any data.  We’ll be in touch very soon with growers as we make our sampling plans.

Have a great weekend