Spring Reminders and Resources

Hello growers.  I hope that by early next week, most of you will be planting potatoes, though the weather hasn’t necessarily been working in our favour for that.

A couple of things to bring to your attention or remind you of this planting season:

Managing Volunteers/Cull Piles

I am hearing from quite a few growers about potatoes that weren’t harvested last fall near trees/fencelines that are still intact and viable.  As you are preparing to work up that ground and making planting decisions in those fields, keeping volunteer management a high priority would be wise.  Be sure to dig up a few hills in fields with rows next to hedgerows or woods and see for yourself if there are viable tubers there.  If there are, consider planting something that you will be mowing repeatedly throughout the season as opposed to a commercial crop that relies on herbicides for volunteer management.  Some options:  sorghum sudangrass, ryegrass, forage pearl millet, any direct seeded grass species/mixture.

Herbicides are not the most effective method to control volunteers, and only glyphosate (Round-Up) has shown an adequate level of control on volunteer potatoes.  Also consider that if planting a commercial crop on those unharvested acres, you will have a large amount of nitrogen left in the ground from last year’s crop, so manage your fertility accordingly.  In the same vein as managing volunteers, please ensure that cull piles are removed or covered at the end of planting season.  By minimizing growth from volunteers and cull piles we can help keep the spread of late blight and PVY to a minimum.

Cutting/Handling Seed

Many of you are well into seed cutting at the moment or will be starting imminently.  Click this link to find a 2 page factsheet on seed handling and cutting that we have previously circulated.  It might be worth providing a copy to your staff that are involved with seed cutting and handling as well for a brief review.  Some key points:

– Make every effort to avoid bruising of seed pieces before, during, and after cutting
– Larger seed piece size is generally associated with better performing plants
– Eliminate slivers…they will struggle all year and will bring down the yield potential of your field
– Frequently disinfect your seed cutter to reduce the risk of spread of seed-borne diseases such as blackleg and Fusarium
– I have heard of a high proportion of seed lots this year that may struggle with Fusarium than in previous years, and the cool, damp soil conditions at the moment are conducive to set rot.  This makes it even more important to ensure adequate seed piece treatment.  The multiple liquid seed piece treatments and mancozeb have proven effective on all Fusarium strains in PEI.
– Marleen Clark’s lab is now open and accepting samples, so be sure to contact her if you have concerns about a seed lot.

Soil Your Undies Challenge

Click this link for a factsheet on the Soil Your Undies Challenge, promoted by the Soil Conservation Council of Canada.  It’s a good way to get a visual assessment of the relatively biological activity/health of your soils.

If you’re interested to participate, all you need is some cotton briefs and a shovel.  I have some cotton underwear in the car that I can provide to you while I’m out on the roads this spring…just send me a note and I’d be happy to drop off a couple of pairs for you.

I wish you all success this planting season…let’s hope the weather turns around pronto!  If you have additional agronomy questions this spring, please feel free to reach out to me at any time and I’d be glad to talk to you.  I will also be on the road over the next couple of weeks, so feel free to touch base if you’d like me to stop by for a quick chat.