University of Guelph Student Digs into Research Spuds
We are fortunate here in Norfolk County to have a great soil base to support a varied and diverse cross section of crops. We are also fortunate to be home to OMAFRA, the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs.
The Ontario Agri-Food Innovation Alliance is a collaboration between OMAFRA and the University of Guelph to ‘advance research and innovation that contributes to the success of the province’s agri-food sector and promotes rural economic development’.
Griffin Bailey, a second-year student at the U. of Guelph, has his B.Sc. (Agr.) and is a M.Sc. Candidate, Department of Plant Agriculture. OMAFRA is part of the Canada wide Potato Early Dying (PED) network and Bailey has chosen to do his thesis for his Masters in Science & Agriculture on early dying of Ontario potato crops. The aim of the studies is to reduce the severity of PED while providing growers with the knowledge, tools and technologies to not only manage it but to also increase the potato productivity and profitability. “Potatoes are very variable and moderately susceptible to early dying” adds Bailey. The Canada wide study encompasses research from the East Coast to Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba and on to the West Coast.
Bailey is just one of the researchers currently working on the program, under the guidance of Project Leader Dr. Katerina Jordan and Vanessa Currie, Research Technician. “It’s research based and is very hands on, includes extra courses and a lot of background knowledge. In the winter I attend classes and lab and in the growing months I’m in the fields, as soon as the ground thaws, doing something different all of the time. I also spend a lot of time looking after my own plot, that encompasses two fields, for the research on this” adds Bailey.
Bailey has spent a great deal of time on the road from Leamington to Alliston to Barrie. “ I take soil samples and collect as much info as possible for next spring’s crops. I look at what those areas are doing to manage the early dying, what works for them and what doesn’t. I share this info with local growers to hopefully help them down the road”.
The info Bailey collects will definitely prove helpful to our Norfolk growers going forward. “We look at various methods of control done elsewhere. While they may not always be applicable to our growing conditions in Norfolk County, we do get some very useful recommendations. It’s pretty early on in the three-year project. The next couple of years we will have more info to share with anticipated good results.”
Bailey’s research also includes trying to find alternatives to chemical fumigation for prevention of this disease. “It can be quite expensive for the grower because it requires a professional to do the application. Also, it kills not only bad pathogens but some good ones as well…It’s kind of a double-edged sword. We’re looking at rotation and green manure alternatives as well”.
While there are many varieties of potatoes Superior is quite popular.” They have white flesh and are really versatile. They are good table stock and are great for French fries. They’re an early to mid-season crop and local growers can supply fresh market potatoes throughout July and August” states Bailey. His research will help to improve the success of productivity of all varieties.
The research project has been funded in large part through the Canadian Agricultural Partnership (the Partnership), a five year federal-provincial-territorial initiative. Other funding has been provided by the Canadian Horticultural Council’s Canadian AgriScience Cluster for Horticulture 3; the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food through the Ontario Agri-Food Innovative Alliance; the University of Guelph Dept. of Plant Agriculture and the Ontario Potato Board. The support of all is greatly appreciated.
There is still lots of work and research to be done but Bailey will continue to ‘dig in’ and get dirty in the name of research.