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Prince Edward Island potato growers look to new varieties to help with climate change

According to a report by Nancy Russell of CBC News, researchers are working on new varieties of potatoes that they hope will help growers on Canada’s Prince Edward Island cope with the effects of climate change.

Some of the newest varieties were on display as part of the annual Potato Variety Day at the Agriculture Canada research station in Harrington on Prince Edward Island.

“There’s two stages of evaluation in this trial,” said Mary Kay Sonier, seed co-ordinator with the P.E.I. Potato Board. …One is the Agriculture Canada breeding lines, which are sort of upstream, material that will be coming down the pipe so growers can look at, to get an idea what’s coming down.”

The potato board also conducts trials on potatoes that are closer to being in widespread production.

Sonier said climate change is definitely on the mind of potato growers coming to check out the new varieties. “They’re dealing with climate change every day on their farms, we have the droughts, we have these periods of extreme downpours,” Sonier said. “So obviously suitable varieties offer a great potential for dealing with some of those threats.”

“Varieties that have a shorter maturity, so ones that that are a good size they could harvest early perhaps avoid issues like we had last fall with the early freeze up,” Sonier said.

Trays of potatoes on display at Potato Variety Day at the Harrington Research Station. (Ken Linton/CBC)

“We have some traditional varieties that have not handled the dry weather and are pretty well finished at this point. Varieties that have a shorter maturity, so ones that that are a good size they could harvest early perhaps avoid issues like we had last fall with the early freeze up,” Sonier said.

Alvin Keenan, of Rollo Bay Holdings, was one of the growers at the event in Harrington. “What really gives you the appreciation for it is when you visit this operation and the effort that they’re doing on their breeding program,” Keenan said. “The varieties that are being grown here … helps match our climate conditions.”

Read the full report (with pictures) on the CBC website here