Potatoes harvested during the country’s inaugural ‘National Organic Week’ (Oct. 9-16) by scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's (AAFC) Harrington Research Farm in Prince Edward Island are prototypes for the industry.
The organically grown potatoes are the second harvest in a four-year project designed to come up with recommendations that will make it easier and more profitable for organic farmers to grow Canada's largest vegetable crop.
The information should also make it easier for farmers who want to make the transition from conventional to organic potato production.
"We are looking at this from many different angles," said Maria Rodriguez, manager of AAFC's Crops and Livestock Research Centre in Charlottetown, which oversees the 20-hectare organic research at the Harrington site.
"We want to know the better varieties for organic production, the best ways to control insects, diseases and weeds and which crops make the most sense for farmers to grow in rotation."
"And we also have an economist and a food scientist on the project to examine the economic and nutritional value of potatoes grown organically," she said.
In addition to local scientists, the project team includes specialists from the department's research centres in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Saint Jean-sur-Richelieu, Quebec, Guelph, Ontario and Brandon, Manitoba.
Demand for organic products is growing. Retail sales of all organic food products in Canada were valued at over $2 billion in 2008. In PEI there are now about 160 hectares (close to 400 acres) of organic potatoes being grown.