Farmer Focus Arable: Seth Pascoe’s potato tales of the unexpected

It seems that April snowstorms are the Canadian equivalent to Britain’s April showers. On four occasions last month and once in the first week of May, the countryside has been blanketed with snow. As you can imagine, regular snowfall is not conducive to potato seed cutting and planting.

Alongside the snowfall, we have also had an abundance of rainfall, which combined with snow-melt has left the land in a very wet condition. All the ditches are at full capacity and many parts of the farm are waterlogged. Admittedly the rainfall was welcomed with open arms elsewhere in the province. Across the prairies, soil moisture was depleted and dryland farmers were facing the prospect of seeding into record dry soils this spring.

Last year, we started irrigating on 12 May and most of the pivots on the farm had completed one or two rotations by the middle of May. This season I don’t anticipate any irrigation this month. We will still be ditching and channelling/pumping water off the land.

The potatoes we managed to plant have had a difficult start in cool and moist soil conditions. However, while crop walking last week I was pleased to see that most seed pieces had started sprouting. I didn’t notice any signs of seed piece decay – a sign that the Senator (thiophanate-methyl) seed piece treatment has been doing its job.

Our contract reduction was not quite as severe as I mentioned in last month’s article. McCain has a grower matrix for each of their processing plants, recording individual grower performance. North Paddock Farms has consistently been one of the top-10 growers and in acknowledgement of this our contract reduction wasn’t as serious as we were expecting.

It’s a good job we chose to have the additional work lights on the new 8295 Deere. I plan to run the potato planter on extended hours to catch up once the weather changes for the better.

• To read more from Seth Pascoe click here or to read more from our arable farmer focus writers click here.

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