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January 12, 2004
For immediate release

Seed Potato Quality Higher Again This Year

Agriculture, Fisheries, Aquaculture & Forestry

Preliminary results from the post-harvest testing of Prince Edward Island seed potatoes indicate that the quality is high and that virus levels are meeting the standards set by government and industry for 2004. The preliminary results of the laboratory post-harvest testing program were released today by Agriculture, Fisheries, Aquaculture and Forestry Minister Kevin MacAdam.

"The post-harvest testing program is a co-operative effort on the part of industry and government, and is an integral part of the strategy to improve the quality of Prince Edward Island seed potatoes," said Mr. MacAdam. "We have made steady and significant progress in improving the overall quality of our seed potatoes over the past several years." He said the standards were higher last year than the year before, and commended the industry for its continued efforts to improve seed quality.

Mr. MacAdam said he expects the level of seed imports could show a significant decline this year because of the availability of high quality local seed. All seed potatoes that are imported must be tested and meet the same standards as Prince Edward Island seed. Prince Edward Island is the only area in North America which sets mandatory virus planting standards for all seed potatoes.

Approximately 1.8 million hundredweight of seed is required each year to plant the Island potato crop. Prince Edward Island Potato Board chairman Dwight Gardiner was pleased with the test results, and pointed out that seed production has increased over the past three years, from 17,700 acres in 2000 to 25,300 in 2003.

"Island potato farmers have made changes to their production methods in order to achieve these improvements," said Mr. Gardiner. "The last two growing seasons were also favourable for seed production, and that has helped greatly."

Mary Kay Sonier, seed co-ordinator with the Prince Edward Island Potato Board, said the improved results were anticipated because of favourable environmental conditions in 2003. "Our aphid alert program carried out during the past growing season showed low aphid populations and movement, which would mean lower levels of virus spread," she said. "I am pleased that the test results are reflecting this."

Some varieties which are more susceptible to viruses such as Russet Norkotah and Shepody showed more variable results, but the overall quality of these varieties tested to date was greatly improved as well.

The final results of the post-harvest testing program will be available before the end of January.

Media Contact: Brian Craig
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