Pilot Project to Make Potato Growing Cheaper in Canada’s North
A pilot project that could improve food security in Canada’s North recently got the green light. Jackie Milne, president of the Northern Farm Training Institute in Hay River, received USD50,000 in funding from the government of the Northwest Territories to work with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists to identify the best seeds to produce potatoes in the North. If the project is successful, it could dramatically reduce shipping costs and increase accessibility to the staple food across the North, said Helen Tai, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada who specializes in potato genetics.
Distributing potatoes across the North is expensive and they have to be kept from freezing or rotting until the next growing season, which increases costs. Tai said if people used seeds, that could dramatically reduce shipping costs and increase the accessibility to the staple food. However, for a potato seed to be found viable in the North, Tai said they would have to find seeds that are resistant to cold, could grow in a short period of time and adapt to the North’s long summer daylight hours. “That will require a little bit of work,” she said.
Now that they’ve received funding, Milne is preparing plots on a five-acre piece of land so that she can plant different potato seeds, provided by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, next spring.
Tai said that if they find the right seed or seeds, it would make potato cultivation more accessible, less expensive and more disease-free.