Dr. Eugenia Banks
In conversation with Dr. Eugenia Banks, Potato Specialist in Ontario, Canada
‘Breeders are continuously developing new varieties, trying to solve growers’ problems. I have been conducting variety trials for over 15 years, so I have seen many varieties and clones. I consider myself a liaison, giving my opinion to HZPC and to growers on what we need for Ontario. We do work closely together; it is real teamwork.
One of the biggest challenge for growers is Mother Nature. For example, 2016 was the hottest year on record in Ontario and 2017 the wettest in 100 years. In 2016, growers spent most of their time irrigating, which increased the cost of production. In 2017, growers had to deal with flooding and late blight. The timely management of late blight allowed the growers to produce a profitable crop without storage problems.
Importance of HZPC varieties for Ontario
In Ontario, the most important requirement is appearance—a smooth, bright skin—followed by high yield. There are several HZPC varieties that have these requirements: Colomba, Vivaldi, Sifra, Tyson and Fenway Red, to name a few. These varieties, under good production practices, help growers to supply the market with requirements that buyers need. A good example is Colomba which performed very well both in the hottest (2016) and the wettest (2017) years. The development of varieties such as Colomba--which is nearly perfect according to some potato growers--demonstrates the strength of HZPC’s breeding program.
Evaluating the new HZPC varieties and clones is, I feel, important work. I can really help growers by making them aware of the benefits varieties offer and the requirements for production: resistance to disease, in-row spacing and fertility needs. The growers also help me. After all, they grow the potatoes, and have developed a good eye. I serve as a link between HZPC and the growers to the benefit of both.
Chances for all growers
HZPC is a key player and is doing a great job investing in trials to test new varieties under local conditions. As I mentioned before, attractive tubers with smooth skin are popular in Canada. HZPC has outstanding varieties like Colomba, and that is an important benefit. Combine attractiveness with taste, and you have a winner with consumers! I would like all growers in Ontario to have the chance to grow HZPC’s varieties.'