Seed Farm

Fox Island Elite Seed Farm

History

The Elite Seed Potato Farm at Fox Island was established in 1962 by the then PEI Potato Marketing Board. The current PEI Potato Board continues to operate the farms on behalf of PEI potato producers. The farm was established in response to a directive from the Canadian Department of Agriculture concerning the production of high grade seed potato stocks. From 1962 onward the seed potato certification scheme in Canada was to include new classes of seed potatoes: Elite I, Elite II and Elite III, that would be the precursors of Foundation and Certified classes. This change was an effort to limit disease buildup in seed potato stocks and to assist in the eradication of Bacterial Ring Rot.

The Fox Island location was chosen for its relatively isolated location. Over time the farm has expanded to include: an improved climate controlled palletized storage, a farm workshop, a disinfection station, a pesticide storage building, a tissue culture laboratory, screenhouses, a seminar facility and an additional property with an irrigation pond. The total land base is 210 ha (520 ac). Cultivated land is 130 ha (320 ac) and up to 100 ac of potatoes can be grown each season using a 3 year rotation.

Up until the early 1990’s, Fox Island Elite Seed Farm was the only early generation seed potato production unit on PEI. Regulation changes since this time have allowed private producers get into this business. In the 1990’s there were between 10 to 20 nuclear production facilities on the Island, however this has now dropped back to 5 in vitro production facilities and 9 (including the in vitro operations) facilities producing nuclear minitubers. All facilities are audited and inspected by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA).

Climate

The Elite Seed Farm is located in western Prince Edward Island and the annual average rainfall is approximately 1000 mm (40 inches), with 400 mm (16 inches) of this coming in the period from May to September. The average annual degree days above 5°C (40°F) is 1600, with May to September average degree days above 10°C (60°F) being 800. The average January air temperature is -8°C (16°F) and the average July air temperature is 19°C (68°F). The prevailing summer winds are from the southwest.

Cultural Practices

To help in disease control and soil health, a minimum three year rotation is used - potatoes/oats/ryegrass. All seed is green-sprouted to ensure rapid germination. Planting occurs in May. An in-furrow insecticide is applied at planting and a regular spray program for insect pests and late blight is followed. 

Border crops and oil sprays are used to reduce potential for virus transmission by aphids and any volunteers (a potential source of virus or blight inoculum) are rogued out of rotation fields. Aphid traps are maintained in several fields and samples are taken twice per week.

Topkill occurs from mid to late August and practices are followed to ensure a rapid burndown of the plants. This includes mechanical removal of the haulm, the use of a foliar desiccant and root pruning to prevent any regrowth.

Floating rowcover (to act as a physical barrier between the plants and disease carrying insects) is used on our nuclear planted seed plots.

Seed Classes and Varieties

Approximately fifteen varieties popular on Prince Edward Island are grown to Elite 1 Class, or the second field generation, at Fox Island. This seed is then sold to commercial seed producers on PEI. Over 25 varieties are produced in screenhouses for our own use and on order for commercial producers. The Potato Board promotes the use of Forward Contracts to help plan field production acreage and nuclear seed requirements.

Current field grown varieties include: Atlantic, Chieftain, Goldrush, Kennebec, Dark Red Norland, Russet Burbank, Sangre, Shepody, Superior, and Yukon Gold. This list can be expanded to meet industry demand.

Numerous varieties are held in our tissue culture bank and our lab produces tissue culture plantlets for our own needs as well as on order for private nuclear seed production facilities.

Inspection and Testing

All of the tissue culture and nuclear (mini-tuber) stock facilities and plants are regularly audited by CFIA and tested in compliance with CFIA regulations. All field grown material is inspected by CFIA twice during the growing season. All seed lots are tested in the laboratory for Bacterial Ring Rot, PVY and PLRV prior to sale.

Provincial regulations are followed for truck disinfection and post harvest testing and a virus cap is in place for all seed planted in PEI help to maintain a clean environment for seed potato production in Prince Edward Island.

The Environment

The Potato Board strives for the highest possible standards for land and environmental stewardship at the Elite See Farm. An Environmental Farm Plan has been completed. Provincial buffer zone legislation is followed on land between farm fields and open waterways. Both existing and newly planted hedgerows are abundant on the farm to reduce soil erosion. Forage crops are incorporated into the soil to increase organic matter and all potato fields are planted with a fall cover crop. As well, a separate pesticide storage building has been constructed and new fuel tanks with an approved containment structure have been installed.

Markets

All of the seed produced on Fox Island Elite Seed Farm is sold within the province. Approximately 20% of the potato acreage grown on PEI is grown to seed certification standards. This seed is sold within North America or to one of the many offshore markets that purchase Prince Edward Island Seed Potatoes.