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Canada: Dry harvest conditions preferable for Delta potato farmers

With a dry August and September, and little or no rain forecast for the next 14 days or so, Ladner potato farmer Peter Guichon is not too concerned about this year's harvesting conditions.

Go back 24 months or so on the calendar and it was a much different story.

That was when heavy rains ruined about 3,000 acres of crops in the Lower mainland, most of it potatoes mired in mud and next to impossible to harvest.

"Two years ago was a disaster," says Guichon who runs Felix Farms, one of B.C.’s largest producers of vegetables with 900 acres, adding he'd rather deal with the problems of dry conditions than with what took place in 2010 and the spring of 2011 when wet weather hampered planting crops.

"We're having trouble with bruising on the potatoes," explaining that when the potatoes are dug up the crop can get clumps of hard, dry mud attached to each spud.

And when they go through automated separating machinery the process can result in bruises on the potatoes.

"We have machines that are putting water on them—a fine mist that makes the potatoes wet and slippery. Some fields are worse than others, but I'll take this problem anytime compared to two years ago. It may be dustier than hell, but that's harder on the workers."

Guichon added some farmers have been irrigating ahead of their harvesting equipment.

"That does work. It softens the lumps."

But with high salt levels in local ditch waters used for irrigation, some farmers are reluctant to use that method.

Guichon said the high slat content is caused by high tides coming up the Fraser River and no freshet to wash the salty water away.

"The salt water backs up in the Fraser River at high tide," Guichon says. "And we haven't been able to irrigate for two to three weeks."

Not so bad for potatoes that have already finished their growing cycle, but problematic for cranberry growers who require flooding their fields at harvest time.


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