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New potato varieties showcased at field trial in Ladner

A huge array of new potato varieties were on display in Ladner last week. The B.C.
Local potato farmers gathered at Bates Brothers Farms last Thursday to check out new varieties of spuds in the B.C. Potato Industry Variety Trial Field Day.

A huge array of new potato varieties were on display in Ladner last week. The B.C. Potato Industry Variety Trial Field Day, which showcased many spuds that are new to this region, was held last Thursday at Bates Brothers Farms, where members of the local farming community provided their input on the marketability of the many reds, whites, yellows and russets.

Sponsored by B.C. potato growers, suppliers and various agencies, including Agriculture and Agri Foods Canada, the field trial showcased attempts aimed at bringing new selections to market.

The program, which began a decade ago, gathers agronomic information about various varieties and how they grow under onfarm conditions here. Those that show promise are put through storage trials and test kitchens.

Special events like the one last week are then held as an opportunity for growers to see the results, allowing them to see what has potential and what spuds are likely duds.

The event is a great way for farmers to see what could be the next big thing in the produce aisle, said Delta potato grower Tim Guichon of Felix Farms.

He said potatoes grown on his farm are bigger than the ones that were on display because his farm provides constant irrigation, but added it would be interesting to see which of the smaller varieties catch on with farmers and consumers.

"There's a lot of interesting varieties. This is how we found out what might grow in our area. It's not a guarantee, but it's a starting point," Guichon said.

His brother Paul Guichon agreed, saying it's important to find the right spuds that grow well and quickly in Delta's particular climate as well as those that won't pose storage challenges.

He noted size, shape and colour are the most important aspects, even before consumers taste the different varieties.

"Right now we look at how they grow for size and colour because that's what makes them sell. They need a good appearance because if you go to a store, you want to buy what's good looking," he said. "There is a market for small potatoes but not as much."

Also on hand at last Thursday's event was Delta Coun. Ian Paton, who said many of the varieties come from seeds from places like Prince Edward Island and throughout the continent.

Also supporting the initiative are the Canadian Horticulture Council, the B.C. Potato and Vegetable Growers' Association and Growing Forward 2, a five-year (2013-2018) provincial-federally funded program focusing on agricultural innovation, competitiveness and market development.

The field trials have been held at several other Delta farms during the 10 years of the program.