Seed Potatoes from the Pemberton Valley to You
An important part of our British Columbia (BC) seed potato industry is the Pemberton Valley; a geographically isolated region of BC just one hour north of Whistler. The isolation of the Pemberton Valley from other potato growing regions is key to its importance in the production of high quality seed potatoes in BC. The physical barriers provided by the surrounding mountains and the restrictions in place regarding the planting of potatoes are factors that protect the integrity of Pemberton seed potatoes from vectors carrying disease.
It Starts in the Tissue Culture Lab…. The production of certified potato seed is a lengthy process which starts from sprouts harvested from disease-free parent tubers and grown out into seedlings in the protected environment of the tissue culture lab, a facility operated by the Pemberton Seed Potato Growers. The seedlings are eventually planted out as transplants in screenhouses as “Year 1 Nuclear” stock. The following year, the tubers from these plants are then planted into the field as “Year 2 Nuclear” stock. This system of planting out to the field and harvesting tubers to be planted out the following year (passing through seed classes from Nuclear to Elite 4 and Foundation) results, finally, in the production of 7th generation certified seed.
Just Say “No” to Diseases and Viruses….. Throughout these plantings, each successful generation of seed passes rigorous inspection for varietal purity and the absence of certain diseases in order to advance on to the next class. Meticulous on-farm sanitation measures and pest management play an important role in the production of seed which must meet defined tolerance levels for the presence of varietal mixtures and certain viruses and wilts. All seed potatoes must be completely free from spindle tuber and bacterial ring rot. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency works closely with growers to ensure that seed potatoes meet specified certification standards.
Challenges to Agriculture in the Pemberton Valley….. Anyone accustomed to the bustle of the Lower Mainland is immediately struck by the relaxed pace and easy friendliness of the Pemberton community which has its roots in BC’s resource-based economies including agriculture. As with other agricultural communities operating close to the urban fringe, competing development demands on a limited landbase is a pressure that Pemberton farmers are facing more and more. The agricultural importance of the Pemberton region to the BC potato industry cannot be understated and needs to be protected for the future.