By Greg Price
Summer revelers enjoyed lots of heat in 2017 with temperatures regularly in the 30-degree plus Celsius range.
While that may have families bask in the glow of time off with their children, it has proven more difficult growing conditions for potatoes.
“Heat has been an issue. Basically, anything above 25-27 degrees Celsius, the potato plant shuts down tuber production. They go dormant… there’s lots of nice green foliage, they are just not doing anything underground. Normally when we get those hot days, we cool down at night, so the plant can resume and carry on,” said Terence Hochstein, executive director of the Potato Growers of Alberta.
“But we’ve had too many hot, hot days where it’s not cooling down, so the plant doesn’t go back into the growth stage.”
Water has not been an issue with the various irrigation districts as farmers have tended to their crop.
“Those stressful 30 to 35 days of extreme heat, the plants get tired, they get stressed. They start to senescence earlier than they should and they start to die,” said Hochstein.
“You don’t get that bulking up that you normally do in August. As far as yields, we don’t know yet. Some guys are pretty happy with what they are seeing and other guys are disappointed. We should be having an average crop.”
Overall acreage is up a bit this year with about 40,000 acres being grown in southern Alberta.
There has been some positives that have been drawn from the heat given disease control.
“For disease, we’ve had a really good year. Disease has been minimal. That has been the positive to a hot, dry summer. It keeps the late blight out, but there’s a trade off,” said Hochstein.
“Corn loves heat where our Taber corn came out a bit earlier. Sugar beets seem to like heat, it’s just potatoes don’t seem to respond as well. Every plant has its magic point where it starts to shut down production.”