Vegetables
August 16, 2017, Lethbridge, Alta. - Alberta’s potato industry is worth more than $1 billion to our economy. But it’s threatened by a tiny bacterium

This year, a Lethbridge scientist reports, it hasn’t shown up.

“That’s good news,” says Dan Johnson, a biogeography professor at the University of Lethbridge. He explains the bacteria are linked with zebra chip disease – already affecting crops in the U.S., Mexico and New Zealand. It turned up as early as May in Idaho this year.

Potatoes infected by the bacteria develop unsightly black lines when they’re fried, making them unfit for sale. The bacteria are carried by an insect, the potato psyllid. READ MORE
August 11, 2017, Langley, BC – There are more than 24,000 people employed in British Columbia’s agriculture industry and sun and heat exposure are workplace hazards for many of them.

Agriculture workers have a 2.5 to 3.5 times greater risk of developing skin cancer than indoor workers, according to a Sun Safety At Work Canada 2016 report. Employers are responsible for addressing this risk.

AgSafe, BC’s agriculture health and safety association, suggests the best way to reduce the risk of sun and heat exposure in the workplace is to implement a sun and heat safety action plan for outside workers.

“There are resources available for those who employ outdoor workers to help them develop and implement a sun and heat safety plan,” says Wendy Bennett, executive director of AgSafe. “The key is controlling the worker’s exposure to sun and the possibility of heat stress.”

Checking Environment Canada’s UV index regularly to monitor worker risk and providing a shade structure, where practical or enabling shade breaks on the worksite will help reduce the effects of sun exposure.

Scheduling heavy work outside of the hottest times of the day – before 11 a.m. and after 3 p.m. – when UV levels are lower, along with regular “cool-down” rest periods, will help reduce the risk of heat stress.

Knowing the signs of heat stress – decrease in alertness, extreme fatigue, nausea, dizziness, confusion, muscle cramps, and fast shallow breathing, is very important and should be acted upon immediately if they present.

Bennett adds that the risk of heat stress is higher when employees are working outdoors with equipment that gives off heat.

Tips to avoid sun exposure and heat stress:
  • Wear loose-fitting tightly woven or UV-protective labelled clothing; wide brimmed hats that shade the face, ears and neck; apply sunscreen throughout the day
  • Wear sunglasses to protect eyes from UV rays
  • Hydrate regularly with water
  • Take breaks in the shade
Additional sun and heat safety information is available by visiting www.SunSafetyAtWork.ca or www.Weather.gc.ca.
July 13, 2017, P.E.I. - This year’s Canadian acreage of J.R. Simplot’s genetically engineered Innate potato will be “very small” to non-existent, according to a company spokesperson.

Kerwin Bradley, director of commercial innovation for Simplot, says the company’s marketing strategy for new varieties is based on customer polls and identification of marketing channels. “We don’t plant potatoes, or give seed to growers, until we know that there is a place for them to sell them, so how quickly that develops depends on how quickly we develop routes to market for those potatoes,” he says.

“That way we ensure we keep the risk really low for everybody, especially the growers.”

The company has been talking to major Canadian retailers to “check the pulse” of their interest in the new potato, says Doug Cole, Simpot’s director of marketing and communications.

First generation lines of the Innate potato, which boast lower bruising and acrylamide, were approved by Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency last spring. Second generation lines, which have late blight resistance and lower sugar levels for improved processing, have already been approved in the U.S., and Canadian approvals are expected later this year. READ MORE
July 11, 2017, Quebec - Though seemingly endless rain, flooding and cold weather delayed the start of the Quebec season by at least a week compared to the past two years, a warm spell in June put some crops back on track.

“We’re a little late but it could have been worse,” said Andre Plante, executive director of the Quebec Produce Growers Association, who expected some crops to catch up by the end of June.

By June 9, with the incentive of a strong exchange rate, growers were already exporting radishes, leaf lettuce and asparagus, Plante said.

“Since 2012 we have doubled our exports to 48 per cent of what we grow,” he said, “and that will probably increase this year.” READ MORE
July 5, 2017, Norfolk, Ont. - Several Ontario potato growers are focusing on organics this year, while the demand for new conventional varieties continues to grow.

Bill Nightingale Jr., president of Nightingale Farms in La Salette, Ontario, has partnered with neighboring grower Aaron Crombez to grow and pack 70 acres of certified organic potatoes under his Norfolk Organics label.

“During our local season, about 80 per cent of Ontario’s organic potatoes come from British Columbia and Prince Edward Island,” Nightingale said.

He plans to start harvesting in July and hopes to have organics until January, or whenever supplies run out.

“It gives us something to do in late fall and winter to put more pallets on the truck,” he said.
Trevor Downey, owner of Shelburne, Ontario-based Downey Potato Farms, an hour north of Toronto, is excited about his new organic farm within Rock Hill Park.

He plans to increase his organic acreage by 25 per cent this year for the Downey Farms Organic and Loblaw’s PC Organic label. READ MORE
June 29, 2017, Holland Marsh, Ont. - Farmers in the Holland Marsh area spent the weekend scrambling to pump water off their fields and save their crops after heavy rainfall.

The rain reached its peak on Friday when a storm unleashed a total of 36.2 mm of precipitation in the region. Fields were drowned by flash floods. READ MORE
June 23, 2017, Ontario - For nearly four months, farmers in Ontario who grow processing vegetables have been silenced after the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission shut down our organization – Ontario Processing Vegetable Growers (OPVG).

As a result, the Processing Vegetable Growers’ Alliance was formed to represent the interests of growers of the 14 different processing vegetables grown in Ontario, in the absence of OPVG.

Our goal, as an alliance of growers, is to restore a fully elected OPVG board with the authority to negotiate prices, terms, conditions and contracts for Ontario’s processing vegetable growers.

But on June 15, 2017, the commission posted proposed amendments to Regulation 441 (Vegetables for Processing – Plan) that impact governance of OPVG.

We have very serious concerns about the proposed amendments that would effectively allow the government to take control of the OPVG board for another year. OPVG currently has no expert advisory staff or board, and is operated by a commission-appointed trustee.

Our sector is best served by the grassroots growers who produce the 14 different processing vegetables grown in Ontario. And a fully elected grower board is in the best position to accurately and adequately represent our sector.

The proposed amendments to OPVG board governance will put the voice of the processing growers at a minority, with government appointees making up the majority of the OPVG board until the end of 2018.

It is unacceptable that the Ontario Farm Products Marketing Commission intends to appoint more than 50 per cent of the OPVG board positions (board chair plus four board members) with no requirement that these board members are active processing vegetable growers in Ontario.

We are encouraging all processing vegetable growers in the province to take the opportunity to comment on the proposed amendments by the July 31, 2017 deadline date.
June 16, 2017, Bradford, Ont. - After watching greenhouse tomatoes and creamer potatoes move from commodity to cool thanks to great flavor and marketing, Quinton Woods thinks carrots are next.

“Everyone sees carrots as the cheap option on the shelf and retailers love promoting them,” said Woods, sales manager for Gwillimdale Farms in Bradford, Ontario, which has just completed a company-wide rebranding.

“Last summer’s consumer research told us that shoppers aren’t concerned about price,” he said, “but they do want their carrots to be sweet, clean and crisp.”

Gwillimdale’s new bag plays up the carrots’ attributes, he said.

“Consumers don’t want traditional carrots,” Woods said. “With all the different nationalities in Toronto in particular, there’s more pressure every year for new offerings in the category.”

Gwillimdale is one of several Ontario farms growing Nantes carrots, which have gained popularity, especially at farmers markets. READ MORE
June 15, 2017, New Zealand - Potatoes are an integral part of a Kiwi diet, whether mashed up or sliced into chips, but there's always been a very distinct issue with them: they're not particularly healthy.

But now some New Zealand farmers have invented a new kind of potato they claim has 40 percent less carbs.

Farmer Andrew Keeney told Three's The Project that the Lotato, as it's been called, is grown in Pukekohe and Ohakune, and created by cross-breeding other varieties. READ MORE
June 12, 2017, Malden, N.B. - A family of New Brunswick potato farmers are getting into the booze business by making vodka from spuds.

Blue Roof Distillers has joined a small handful of distillers in the country making the product.

The Strang family has been farming in the community of Malden, N.B. since 1855. For decades, the blue roofs on their barns have symbolized potatoes. But now they also represent their new line of ultra-premium Blue Roof vodka.

Potato vodka has been around since the days of the backyard still, but this is a first for New Brunswick. READ MORE
June 9, 2017, Fredericton, N.B. - Housed in Canada’s centre of excellence for potato research along the Saint John River Valley in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s scientists maintain a living library of nearly 180 potentially high-value potato gene resources.

Canada’s potato gene bank, or Canadian Potato Genetic Resources, is part of an international commitment to global food security.

If disease or a natural disaster strikes and potato crops are devastated, researchers from anywhere in the world can turn to the gene bank to rebuild the stock.

Researchers can also call on the gene bank for resources to help them develop stronger, more disease-resistant and environmentally-resilient varieties.

"We preserve some potato varieties that are of unique value to northern latitude climates, varieties that are adapted to shorter seasons with longer daylight hours. Only certain star varieties are grown by the potato industry so in the interest of preserving genetic diversity, an important part of our role as gene bank curators is to back up our genetic resources," said Dr. Benoit Bizimungu, Gene Resources Curator, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada

Unlike other gene banks that preserve seed-propagated crops like grains, the potato gene bank is made up of live tissue cultures or tubers which are perishable and require- constant maintenance.

Plantlets are grown in aseptic conditions in test tubes that are stored in temperature-controlled growth chambers for six to eight weeks at a time. The collection is then refreshed,continuously monitored and periodically tested for contaminations.

Microtubers, or tiny potatoes about the size of a raisin, are also produced in test-tubes and preserved for up to a year as a backup. A duplicate collection of microtubers is kept at AAFC's Saskatoon Research and Development Centre.

"It's well worth it," says Dr. Bizimungu of the work involved in conserving high-value potato genetic diversity. "There are many potato varieties that aren't grown today that have traits that are of current or future interest to researchers and educators. Preserving these varieties ensures valuable attributes, and even those with known susceptibility to certain diseases, are kept for the development of future, better varieties."

The collection is comprised of heritage varieties, modern Canadian-bred varieties, as well as strains known to show differential reactions to certain diseases and breeding lines with specific traits scientists are interested in studying.

In addition to Canadian varieties, the collection also includes varieties from the U.S., Peru and many European countries including Ireland, the Netherlands and Estonia.

Canadian Potato Genetic Resource is part of Plant Gene Resources Canada (PRGC). The mandate of PGRC is to acquire, preserve and evaluate the genetic diversity of crops and their wild relatives with focus on germplasm of economic importance or potential for Canada.
May 25, 2017, P.E.I. - There will be no commercially grown GMO potatoes on Prince Edward Island this year, according to Simplot Plant Sciences, the company that developed the Innate potato.

Innate potatoes bruise less and have less black spots than conventional potatoes.

Doug Cole, director of marketing and communications, said the company is holding off allowing commercial growth of Innate potatoes in Canada until there's a proven market for them. READ MORE
May 19, 2017, Holland Marsh, Ont. - Environment Canada says a downburst destroyed a barn and caused all sorts of damage in the Holland Marsh and York Region.

Wind gusts stronger than 85 km/h accompanied a band of thunderstorms that moved east across central Ontario on Thursday evening.

The hardest hit areas were in the Holland Marsh, where winds obliterated a barn, tossing debris across a large field. Winds also forced a tractor trailer to flip on Highway 400 north at Canal Road. READ MORE


Video: Drone footage of the Holland Marsh following the May 18 storm system
May 15, 2017, Augusta, ME – With little fanfare, the Maine Board of Pesticides Control recently approved the registration of three new types of genetically engineered potatoes that have been developed by a major Idaho agribusiness company.

The move means that the J.R. Simplot Co.’s Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet and Atlantic potatoes could be planted in Maine fields at any time. These potatoes were created by adding genes from a wild potato plant and are designed to be resistant to late blight. READ MORE
May 9, 2017 – Laboratory testing can detect Dickeya — but is there enough of it present to justify the higher costs?

It’s a relatively new threat to North American potato production. The invasive pathogen Dickeya dianthicola — not to be confused with blackleg causing Dickeya solani — was first spotted in Canada in Ontario fields, having come in on seed potatoes from Maine. READ MORE
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