Farmer Focus Arable: Seth Pascoe makes good progress with potatoes

Things have certainly become very busy on the farm since my last instalment. McCains have settled potato contracts here in Alberta, apparently the first Canadian province to come to an agreement. I am very pleased with the outcome – a 15% price increase and no reduction in tonnage.

Here at North Paddock potato planting is well under way. The harsh winter has produced a good friable tilth and seedbeds are excellent. We farm potato hills in the autumn using a Dammer-Diker. This is a great bit of kit. Sub-soiling legs travel down the centre of each hill, followed by bulking bodies forming the hills. A novel wheel then digs small divots in between each hill. In winter these help trap snowfall and increase moisture accumulation; during the season they assist wth drainage and prevent irrigation run-off.

In spring we simply travel over the hills once with a packer to firm them up and break any remaining clods, and then they are ready for planting.

A warm period of weather with temperatures as high as 26C has seen tubers going into lovely warm seed-beds. The output and accuracy of our 6-row Spudnik planter is good; planting 60 acres a day (half a pivot circle) and achieving 92% efficiency. Good progress was being made until very suddenly the clouds appeared, snowfall started and all fieldwork subsequently ground to a halt.

I write this column after a week of temperatures hovering around zero with regular snowfall. At least it will provide good moisture for emerging potatoes and good conditions for seeding grain and canola. I shall be patient and return to the hobby which occupies farmers all over the world – checking weather forecasts.

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