March 6th, 2014
NEW BIOLOGICAL FUNGICIDE FROM BAYER
Bayer CropScience Canada has announced the registration of Serenade SOIL, a new biological fungicide for fruit and vegetable crops, including potatoes. With a unique mode of action (FRAC Group 44), Serenade SOIL creates a disease protection zone around the seed and roots. The beneficial bacteria in the fungicide grow with the plant, expanding the disease protection zone and creating armour for the seed and the roots against common soil diseases like rhizoctonia and pythium.
“Serenade SOIL works unlike any other fungicide, colonizing the seed and roots to continually protect against harmful diseases,” says David Kikkert, portfolio manager for Bayer CropScience’s horticulture division. “Its unique mode of action offers growers a new tool for disease management, is exempted from maximum residue limits, and has a zero-day pre-harvest interval.”
According to Bayer CropScience, studies have shown that because Serenade SOIL helps activate the plant’s natural defense mechanism, it improves root colonization, increases efficiency of photosynthesis, and improves plant growth. As a result, crops treated with Serenade SOIL yielded a more robust plant and better quality product, the company says, adding that its liquid formulation allows convenient tank-mixing with both fungicide and insecticide products. For more information visit Bayer CropScience Canada.
SYNGENTA REGISTERS NEW SEED TREATMENT
Syngenta Canada Inc. has announced that Cruiser Maxx Potato Extreme seed treatment has been registered for use on potato crops in Canada. The enhanced, all-in-one, liquid pre-mix delivers a concentrated formulation that is simple and convenient to use and provides reliable protection from seed-borne diseases and early-season insects.
“This new liquid pre-mix formulation provides growers with the ability to target both disease and insect pests with one product and the new concentrated formulation facilitates ease of mixing and measuring with fewer jugs to handle,” says Nathan Klages, product lead, seedcare for Syngenta Canada.
Cruiser Maxx Potato Extreme contains three active ingredients for comprehensive control. Group 4 insecticide, thiamethoxam, works systemically to provide broad-spectrum performance. In the plant, it is translocated via the plant’s water-conducting system where it remains active for up to 100 days.
Cruiser Maxx Potato Extreme also provides two powerful modes of action against disease, an important feature now that some strains of seed-borne Fusarium are resistant to thiophanate-methyl and fludioxonil. The combination of Group 3 fungicide, difenoconazole, and Group 12 fungicide, fludioxonil, offer a broad spectrum of control, including·protection from silver scurf,·Rhizoctonia·control, and a second mode of action against resistant·Fusarium.·For more information visit Syngenta Canada Inc.
CHC RECEIVES BOOST FOR FURTHER RESEARCH
The Canadian government is investing $7 million to support a new research cluster led by the Canadian Horticultural Council. The investment will support industry experts, scientists and academics conducting research focused on reducing crop input costs while improving marketable yield and margins for apple and potato growers.
CHC is also receiving further funding via the AgriMarketing Program for an additional project that will also benefit the potato industry. The funding will allow the CHC to work on issues affecting market access for potato farmers and to increase global awareness of Canadian potatoes.
“Our government remains focused on the economy and on creating opportunities for Canadian farmers and businesses to grow and prosper,” says Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz. “A strong partnership between government, industry and academia will help ensure continued innovation and commercialization within Canada’s vibrant and diverse horticulture sector.” For more information visit the Government of Canada.
SURVEY SHOWS MAJORITY OF AMERICANS EAT POTATOES
In a new survey by the Idaho Potato Commission, 97 per cent of Americans said they eat potatoes and more than 81 per cent enjoy them as a side dish, snack or main course on average of three days per week.
“The IPC’s marketing programs have one main objective and that is to increase Idaho potato consumption nationwide,” says Frank Muir, president and CEO of IPC. “We were thrilled with the survey results, which found consumer attitudes toward potatoes shifting. America’s favourite vegetable is now consumed three times a week, up from two times per week in 2009.”
Baked potatoes are favoured more by those who are 45 years of age or older than by those 18 to 44 years old (36 per cent versus 23 per cent). The younger age group, on the other hand, favoured french fries (21 per cent versus 12 per cent).
When asked which vegetable the survey respondents craved most, potatoes were the clear winner. Nearly one quarter (24 per cent) chose spuds, followed by leafy greens such as lettuce, kale or spinach (20 per cent), broccoli (14 per cent), tomatoes (13 per cent) and corn (11 per cent). For more information visit the Idaho Potato Commission.
The Government of Prince Edward Island has announced an investment of $569,000 for RWL Holdings Ltd. to purchase innovative, technologically advanced equipment for a high-speed potato wash facility.
This new optical-sensing sorting equipment allows RWL Holdings to offer a new service to P.E.I. potato growers by providing them with a high-speed, high-volume service that will help increase their profitability by offering a more consistent product.
The funding will allow RWL Holdings to open a potato wash facility using the most innovative sorting technology. The equipment will sort the potatoes by size and type on a just-in-time basis, allowing more efficiency when sorting loads of potatoes for large-scale processors like McCains and Cavendish Farms. For more information visit the Prince Edward Island Government
February 20, 2014
NEW KIND OF RESISTANCE TO POTATO DISEASE
Phytopathologists at Wageningen University in the Netherlands have discovered a new mechanism that increases the resistance of potatoes to Phytophthora infestans, which causes late blight in potatoes. The new kind of resistance is based on the protein LecRK-I.9 and operates on the outside of the plant cell. This is new, because the resistance used so far to help potatoes withstand Phytophthora recognizes unwanted intruders in the plant cell. But this kind of resistance is relatively easy to circumvent because Phytophthora mutates rapidly and can therefore avoid being recognized.
Phytopathologist Klaas Bouwmeester came across LecRK in Arabidopsis, a plant Wageningen scientists often use for research. He demonstrated earlier that this protein plays a role in the resistance of Arabidopsis to plant diseases. Bouwmeester then placed LecRK in potatoes, demonstrating that these potatoes have an increased resistance to Phytophthora, as he explains in the January edition of the Plant Biotechnology Journal.
That does not mean there is now a potato variety with long-lasting resistance to the potato disease, says Bouwmeester. In 2013 he was awarded a grant from the Dutch Organization for Scientific Research to investigate this new kind of resistance further. He is looking for similar proteins in potatoes, as well as in tomatoes and chili peppers. Bouwmeester will examine how these proteins function in order to find the versions that give maximum resistance in these crops.
“If that works, it would be a good idea to combine this new kind of resistance with the familiar resistance proteins in the plant cell,” says Bouwmeester. “In that way, we create two lines of defence against Phytophthora.” For more information visit Wageningen University.
PMANA MEETS TO DISCUSS 2014 PROCESSING CONTRACTS
The Potato Marketing Association of North America held a special spring meeting recently in Las Vegas, Nev. to discuss progress on the 2014 pre-season potato contract negotiations. Growers’ at the meeting expressed disappointment in the direction of this year’s talks. According to a PMANA press release, growers felt that processors had established a good precedent for establishing sustainable prices by adjusting contract price according to annual changes in the cost of producing potatoes. As those same input costs have leveled out for this coming year, growers expected that contract pricing would adjust accordingly but that is not what is happening, says the PMANA, adding that processors are forgoing this reliable method for determining contract price and reducing prices instead to levels far below the cost of production in many areas.
The press release says while every area must negotiate the best possible agreement for their growers, two common goals stood out that all felt were necessary for a reasonable outcome for both sides. The goals are:
- Each production area must stand on its own merit and not be tied to a price that another area may negotiate.
- No multi-year agreements should be made without inclusion of a flexible pricing clause that addresses changes in production costs.
Each individual area is continuing contracts talks with the hope of reaching agreements prior to planting season.
The PMANA is comprised of the bargaining associations in the growing regions of Washington, Oregon, Idaho, North Dakota, Wisconsin, Maine, Alberta, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island. For more information visit the Potato Marketing Association of North America. www.pmana.org
CONSERVING POTATO AGROBIODIVERSITY
North Americans love potatoes, but only a few varieties are grown in much of North American agriculture. In South America, where potatoes originated, more than 5,000 varieties continue to exist. A Penn State University geographer is gathering all the information he can about the agrobiodiversity of these uniquely adapted tubers with an eye toward sustainability of potato, the fourth largest food crop worldwide.
“In the U.S. we rely primarily on 10 to 12 types of potatoes total,” says Karl Zimmerer, department head and professor of geography at PSU. “In fact, mostly we use only five to eight varieties. In South America, by contrast, there are 74 different types of potatoes in a single field.”
Zimmerer has studied high-agrobiodiversity land use for more than 20 years, but until recently, those studies have been on the ground. He first looked at diversity within individual potato fields and then scaled up to individual communities and landscapes. People in a community have expert knowledge of 150 to 180 varieties of potato, he says.
“People in Peru, for example, love to eat potatoes and think that theirs are vastly superior to what we have in flavour, texture, starchiness and colour,” explains Zimmerer. “They want to hang on to their high-agrobiodiversity potatoes and we want them to hang due to nutritional, ecological and other conservation advantages.”
Scaling up even more, Zimmerer looked at potato fields on the landscape level, typically groups of five to 15 communities and regions that contain upward of 30 or 40 communities. Remote sensing approaches made this easier, but still only supplied part of the answers to identifying agrobiodiversity hotspots — biologically rich but environmentally and socioeconomically threatened areas — and creating ways to protect these areas and conserve these crops. Because the major potato growing area encompasses large parts of northern South America, Zimmerer says he needed a novel approach.
“There are 4,000 to 5,000 different varieties of potato in Chile, Colombia, northern Argentina, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Venezuela,” says Zimmerer. “Up until now, the areas where varieties grow were just designated as large, undifferentiated shapes on the map. In order to support agrobiodiversity, we have to have an idea of large-area agrobiodiversity concentrations, so we have to look from the top down.”
With this approach, identifying and analyzing region-scale areas of concentrated agrobiodiversity are important, as are the global institutions such as the International Potato Center in Peru. But perhaps the most important part of the top down study is the knowledge held by expert potato taxonomists who have long histories of geographically extensive work. “One example is Alberto Salas who has 60 years of experience and has vast geographic and agrobiodiversity knowledge,” explains Zimmerer. “He is a Peruvian who has worked from Chile to Venezuela and has an extraordinary knowledge of major areas where diverse potato types are located.”
While many experts are local to potato growing areas, other experts come from Europe and North America. To assemble an expert database of information about locations of potato hotspots, Zimmerer uses a two-pronged approach. For those comfortable with computers, he asks them to delineate on Google Earth maps the regions of concentrated agrobiodiversity. For those uncomfortable with computers, the same tasks can be performed using paper maps. Once the regional hotspot locations are on the electronic map, other information such as elevation, socioeconomic characteristics and slope becomes available. Information from the various experts can also be compared. Zimmerer’s approach may eventually be used for visualizations that help enable the local crowdsourcing of this agrobiodiversity.
Zimmerer is already applying this approach to other crops such as corn, which also includes many unique types with geographic dynamics being a key to adaptation and sustainability. To read the complete article visit Penn State University.
RESEARCH SHOWS GM SPUDS BEAT BLIGHT
United Kingdom research findings recently published in the journal Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society showed that genetically modified plants in the study were not infected by late blight. Funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council and the Gatsby Foundation, the research indicated that in 2012, the third year of the trial, the potatoes experienced ideal conditions for late blight. None of the plants in the study were inoculated against late blight. According to researchers, transgenic Desiree plants were 100 per cent infected with late blight by early August of that year while all of the GM plants remained fully resistant to the end of the experiment.
The trial was conducted with Desiree potatoes to address the challenge of building resistance to blight in potato varieties with popular consumer and processing characteristics. The introduced gene, from a South American wild relative of potato, triggers the plant’s natural defense mechanisms by enabling it to recognize the pathogen. Cultivated potatoes possess around 750 resistance genes but in most varieties, late blight is able to elude them.
“Breeding from wild relatives is laborious and slow and by the time a gene is successfully introduced into a cultivated variety, the late blight pathogen may already have evolved the ability to overcome it,” explains professor Jonathan Jones from the Sainsbury Laboratory at Cambridge University. “With new insights into both the pathogen and its potato host, we can use GM technology to tip the evolutionary balance in favour of potatoes and against late blight.”
In northern Europe, farmers typically spray a potato crop 10 to 15 times, or up to 25 times in a bad year. Scientists hope to replace chemical control with genetic control, though farmers might be advised to spray even resistant varieties at the end of a season, depending on conditions.
“Potatoes are important agricultural products and their susceptibility to blight highlights the challenge of producing food in a sustainable way, while minimizing effects on the environment. If we are to explore alternatives to chemicals, we need scientific research on a variety of approaches and technologies that could help us. This BBSRC-funded research provides important evidence to help inform future decisions on how best to meet the food requirements of a growing population,” says professor Melanie Welham, BBSRC science director. For more information visit the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council.
February 6, 2014
SCIENTISTS UNLOCK SECRETS OF POTATO BLIGHT
Scientists have discovered vital clues as to how the pathogen responsible for the Irish potato famine adapted to spread between different plant species. Researchers at England’s Oxford University and the Sainsbury Laboratory at Cambridge University looked in unprecedented detail at how Phytophthora infestans, a pathogen that continues to blight potatoes and tomatoes today, evolved to target other plants.
The study, published in the journal Science, is the first to show how pathogens switch from targeting one species to another through changes at the molecular level. Researchers examined the biochemical differences between Phytophthora infestans and sister species Phytophthora mirabilis, a pathogen that split from P. infestans around 1,300 years ago to target the Mirabilis jalapa plant, commonly known as the four o’clock flower. They found that each pathogen species secretes specialized substances to shut down the defences of their target hosts.
“Plants have these enzymes called proteases that play a key role in their defence systems,” says Renier van der Hoorn, co-author of the study from Oxford University’s Department of Plant Sciences. “When a plant becomes infected, proteases help plants to attack the invading pathogens and trigger immune responses. P. infestans secretes substances called effectors that disable proteases in potatoes and tomatoes. These are highly specialized to block specific proteases in the host plant, fitting like a key into a lock.”
The effectors secreted by P. infestans are less effective against proteases in other plants, as they do not fit well into the locks. The researchers found that P. mirabilis evolved effectors that disable the defences of the four o’clock plant but are no longer effective against potatoes or tomatoes.
“For the first time, we have found a direct molecular mechanism underpinning the change in host specialization,” says van der Hoorn. “Within the next decade, we plan to exploit the specialized nature of these effectors to develop proteases that are resistant to their action or can even trap them and destroy the pathogen. Potato and tomato plants with such proteases would be resistant to the blight pathogens, and combined with other resistant traits could provide another wall of defence against the pathogens.” For more information visit Oxford University. www.ox.ac.uk/media/news_stories/
NEW AIR-CONTROLLED SEPARATOR FROM LOCKWOOD
North Dakota-based equipment manufacturer Lockwood has put its new air-controlled separator (ACS) in the spotlight. The ACS is a complete potato handling and cleaning system that removes rocks, dirt, vines and other debris. Lockwood’s ACS-8 and ACS-5 are designed with a range of features including a vacuum chamber, a cleaning table and an air supply unit.
Additional features include a 48-inch potato discharge conveyor; collection conveyors for funneling dirt and stones to one discharge point; a containment unit for the collection of fine dirt and debris; a high-efficiency backward inclined fan; a 170-horsepower Cummins engine power plant; an optional electric motor drive; a hydraulically activated clutch for remote start-up; and a central control panel with remote access to the air supply unit. According to Lockwood, the ACS also provides a clean and noise-free work environment for workers.
Lockwood has a patent pending on the company’s ACS technology. For more information visit www.lockwoodmfg.com
POTATOES WILL MANAGE CLIMATE CHANGE PRESSURE
Research at the U.S. Department of Agriculture suggests that potatoes are still the go-to tuber when times get tough. David Fleisher, an agricultural engineer with the USDA’s Agriculture Research Service, and colleagues conducted studies to measure how potato plants would respond to elevated atmospheric carbon dioxide levels and the increasingly erratic rainfall patterns expected to result from global climate change.
The team conducted two outdoor chamber studies to evaluate effects of short-term drought cycles at current and elevated carbon dioxide levels. The studies were conducted using soil-plant-atmosphere research chambers that provided precise control over carbon dioxide levels, air temperature, irrigation and humidity. The chambers contained sensors that monitored air, soil, and canopy temperatures, relative humidity, and solar radiation above and below the canopy.
The quantity of solar radiation in the first study was about twice as much as in the second. Having two different study periods allowed the scientists to evaluate how variations in solar radiation during the drought periods affected plant response. In both studies, 11-day drought cycles were applied before tuber formation began and around 10 days after tuber formation began.
The researchers observed significant differences in plant response that they attributed to the variation in solar radiation, which in turn affected plant water-use efficiency and dry matter production. With all other growth factors being equal, the plants in the first study had a 30 per cent to 200 per cent increase in total dry matter production, depending on carbon dioxide levels and water availability.
The team also noted that the cyclic droughts resulted in lower levels of dry matter and leaf area production. They concluded that drought stress before tuber formation probably enhanced the future delivery of carbon, water and plant nutrients to tubers instead of to stems or leaves and that this response increased under elevated carbon dioxide levels. Averaged across all drought treatments, tuber yield from plants growing under elevated carbon dioxide levels was as much as 60 percent greater than tuber yield from plants growing under current carbon dioxide levels. The study results have been published in the journal Agricultural and Forest Meteorology. For more information visit the USDA-ARS division. www.ars.usda.gov
PARTNERSHIP UNVEILS NEW VARIETIES
The Maine Potato Board and University of Maine have announced the creation of two new potato varieties targeted at the french fry and potato chip industries. The new varieties — the Easton and the Sebec — were developed over the past several growing seasons.
“The Easton and Sebec varieties are the first to be released by the University of Maine in the past decade, and the first varieties to be released in partnership with the Maine Potato Board,” says Tim Hobbs, director of grower relations for the Maine Potato Board.
According to Hobbs, potatoes are bred for a multitude of characteristics, including everything from disease resistance to improved fry colour. “To get the right combination of characteristics in one variety takes a large investment in time and resources,” he says. “Eventually this investment pays off.”
Created at UMaine’s Aroostook Research Farm in Presque Isle, Maine, the Easton variety is the new french fry processing potato variety. Field evaluations conducted since 2004 indicate that the Easton potato will produce higher yields and lighter coloured french fries than the current standard french fry variety. While french fry processing is expected to be the primary market for this new variety, it also has excellent flavour and is very good boiled, mashed or baked, according to the Maine Potato Board.
The other new variety, Sebec, was also developed by the University of Maine and is expected to used primarily for potato chip production. Sebec tubers are round to slightly oblong with a lightly textured, buff-coloured skin and white flesh. For more information visit the University of Maine.
LOGAN FARM EQUIPMENT LAUNCHES NEW WEBSITE
Logan Farm Equipment, a leading manufacturer of new potato equipment has announced the release of the company’s new and improved user-friendly website.
“Our company is committed to providing durable, purpose built potato equipment. We are pleased to have a website that reflects the quality of our product and showcases our equipment with all their full features and benefits,” says Clinton Arnold, director of sales for Logan Farm Equipment.
Highlights of the new website include integration with the Agritech Corp. website, giving the user access to Agritech’s large inventory of used farm equipment. In addition, customers can enter to win a 2014 Logan LoadPro Bed and view a time-lapse video of a Logan LoadPro Bed potato truck being built. The website also includes a new blog, and a way to interact with Logan Farm Equipment through social media. For more information visit Logan Farm Equipment. www.loganfarmequipment.com
MANITOBA POTATO PRODUCTION DAYS
A record number of people came out to Manitoba Potato Production Days this year. Mary Ann Sareault of Manitoba’s Keystone Potato Producers Association was conference co-ordinator of the three-day event, held Jan. 28 to 30 in Brandon, Man. She says organizers were extremely pleased with this year’s MPPD, which generated the best-ever attendance of almost 540 participants.
“We had wonderful support from the growers, and then we always have great attendance from exhibitors and the industry and governments,” Sarault says. “I haven’t heard anything but positive [feedback]. Everyone thought the program was really strong, and the trade show’s always a hit.”
More than 70 exhibitors participated in the trade show, and the speakers’ program featured more than a dozen presentations. The keynote speaker was Shimona Mehta, director of food service for the market research firm NPD Group, who spoke on What is Driving Consumer Choices? The next MPPD will be held in Brandon from Jan. 27 to 29, 2015. For more information visit Manitoba Potato Production Days. www.mbpotatodays.ca
January 22nd, 2014
BASF OFFERS NEW HERBICIDE FOR POTATO GROWERS
BASF Canada Inc. has received regulatory approval for Outlook, a new herbicide that will help potato growers address a major challenge to ag production — the increasing variability in the amount and timing or rainfall. Outlook will provide consistent control of nightshade, pigweed and annual grasses, even under dry conditions. As a Group 15 herbicide, Outlook also controls both triazine and Group 2 resistant biotypes whose populations continue to increase across the country.
"Based on our extensive field-scale Canadian research program and several years of commercial use in the U.S., we see Outlook as an excellent new tool that will help growers address both inconsistent rainfall and the growing problem of herbicide resistance," says Bruce Irons, technical specialist for horticultural products with BASF Canada.
Outlook contains the active ingredient Dimethenamid-P, which inhibits weed root and shoot growth, controlling susceptible weeds before they emerge from the soil. Outlook is applied after potatoes are planted but before they emerge from the soil. For more information visit BASF Canada.
W.P. GRIFFIN INVESTS IN NEW POTATO EQUIPMENT
W.P. Griffin is receiving a combined investment of $372,490 from the Prince Edward Island and federal governments to purchase new weighing and bagging equipment.
The Government of Canada, through the Atlantic Canada Opportunities Agency, is investing a total of $323,490 for the equipment and also to help W.P. Griffin market its product and expand its exporting capabilities.
The P.E.I. government, through the Department of Innovation and Advanced Learning, and the Department of Agriculture and Forestry's Growing Forward 2 Program, is investing a total of $49,000 towards the purchase of new equipment.
"This funding will assist our company enter new markets in the potato industry," says W.P. Griffin President John Griffin. "Our new state-of-the-art equipment is helping us sell our specialty products to some of the largest retail chains in Canada and allowing us to evolve in the industry which helps us remain current."
W.P. Griffin has agreements with Walmart Canada and Sobeys Inc., two of the largest domestic retail chains in Canada, to market their new specialty potato products. For more information visit W.P. Griffin. http://www.wpgriffin.com
BAYER POTATO PERSPECTIVES SURVEY
Bayer CropScience launched its Potato Perspectives Survey during Potato Expo held earlier this month in San Antonio, Texas. Bayer collected valuable insights from tradeshow attendees across the food chain to identify potato trends, opportunities and challenges as the industry prepares for the 2014 season.
Key findings include:
- 48 per cent of potato grower participants responded that early blight and white mould were the most difficult diseases to control during 2013.
- 63 per cent of potato grower participants pinpointed the reduction of yield and quality loss due to insects and disease as a critical need to ensure a successful harvest this season.
- 37 per cent of retailer participants identified solutions to enhance crop quality as a top necessity for the upcoming season, and 34 per cent of other industry member participants cited the need for solutions to combat disease and pest resistance issues in the field as a key need in 2014.
- 54 per cent of retailer participants cited increased price of potato production and changes in import and export patterns as the most critical concern for the upcoming season.
- 42 per cent of grower participants, 35 per cent of retailer participants and 46 per cent of other industry member participants believed biotechnology may be able to expand production capabilities and crop yield for the potato market.
"Our commitment to potato innovation is driven by industry needs and demands," says Rob Schrick, horticulture strategic business lead with Bayer. "We continue to invest in the development of new solutions to meet the industry's evolving needs, and insights from our Potato Perspectives Survey will aid us in providing resources to combat critical crop threats." For more information visit Bayer CropScience. www.bayercropscience.us
N.B. POTATO CONFERENCE AND TRADE SHOW 2014
Potatoes New Brunswick will be holding its annual Potato Conference and Trade Show on Thursday, Feb. 6 at the Sénéchal Centre in Grand Falls, N.B. This gathering of New Brunswick potato growers and interested stakeholders attracts more than 200 people each year.
According to organizers, the conference provides an excellent forum for information exchange on the latest developments in the potato industry. This year's program will touch on such topics as: nitrogen and phosphorous management; disease, insect and weed management; variety evaluations; soil and crop management; innovative technology; post-harvest testing; and green sprouting.
Experts will also speak on issues of concern to the industry such as: federal and provincial programs; environmental issues; farm and equipment safety; phytosanitary issues; potato statistics; marketing and trade; genomics; and farm labour resources. For more information visit Potatoes New Brunswick. http://www.potatoesnb.com
January 9th, 2014
OPPORTUNITIES FOR ONTARIO’S FRESH POTATO INDUSTRY
A recent study to identify opportunities for Ontario’s fresh potato industry has led to some recommendations for helping change consumer attitudes towards potatoes.
It is hoped the study, a collaboration between the Ontario Potato Board, Loblaw Companies Ltd., Downey Farms, the Value Chain Management Centre, and George Mitges and Associates, will enable businesses along the value chain to make more informed decisions. This includes addressing consumers’ incorrect assumptions of the nutritional and health benefits of fresh potatoes, and building upon the finding that many consumers do not view price as a top tier consideration. More important to consumers is the availability of high quality, value-added potato products that address a specific functional purpose or are suited to a specific style of preparation.
“The study identified clear market opportunities that can be realized through greater collaboration along the entire value chain,” said Don Brubacher, general manager of the OPB.
The study sheds light on how Ontario’s potato industry has been affected by the emergence of competing carbohydrates, such as pasta and rice, along with increasing costs of production. It also discusses how potato growers’ and provincial organizations’ should collaborate strategically from a market perspective. For the full case study visit the Value Chain Management Centre. www.vcm-international.com
NEW APPROACH TO COMBAT PHYTOPHTHORA
Fast new techniques for genetic identification enable a more specific control of the potato disease phytophthora; this is the theory of scientists from Wageningen UR in the Netherlands who are working to partner with industry to further analyze the genetic variation of the pathogen and link it to practical recommendations. This will allow potato growers to optimally align their choice in fungicides and resistant varieties with the strains of the pathogen that occur in their region. “It is a unique approach that offers opportunities for other crops as well,” explains phytophthora experts Huub Schepers and Geert Kessel.
Information on the genetic composition of Phytophthora infestans populations has been collected for some time. Considerable knowledge exists as to which genetic varieties of P. infestans are active in the Netherlands and how these populations have developed over the years. The EuroBlight network conducted the first analysis on a European level during the 2013 growing season. Field employees at the participating crop protection and potato breeding companies and research institutes collected genetic fingerprints by rubbing affected plant parts on a special cardboard card. Laboratories in the Netherlands and Scotland are currently using these samples to determine the DNA profiles and the results will be published on the EuroBlight website.
Wageningen UR is now looking to join forces with a group of Dutch companies to take the next step within the framework of a public-private partnership. In addition to taking more samples, researchers aim to collate knowledge on the characteristics of the various strains. Recent research by Schepers and his colleagues showed that certain fungicides suddenly became ineffective as a result of the development of new aggressive phytophthora strains. These connections were found by coincidence after damage had occurred in numerous plots. By testing isolates for their sensitivity to active substances, future damage can be prevented and the efficiency of crop protection products improved. For more information visit Wageningen UR. www.wageningenur.nl
MCCAIN IDAHO PLANT EXPANSION TO BEGIN THIS SPRING
McCain Foods is gearing up for a $100-million reinvestment in its potato production plant in Burley, Idaho. The company supplies frozen potato and snack food products for the food-service markets and also supplies retail grocery chains with both McCain and private-label potato products.
Company officials announced that they would increase the Idaho plant’s capacity by adding a third production line. The expansion is expected to create more jobs, and McCain officials confirmed that they would be buying more local potatoes for the Idaho facility.
“We made the decision to invest in our Burley plant because of its strong potato grower community, highly capable work force and tremendous support from the local and state government,” says McCain regional president Frank van Schaayk.
Construction for the expansion is expected to get under way in spring 2014. For more information visit the Boise Weekly. www.boiseweekly.com
PERU’S NEW KAWSAY POTATO FIGHTS ANEMIA
Peruvian scientists have developed a potato they claim is extra-healthy. It’s called Kawsay, which means “food of life.”
The variety is the result of years of work by scientists who wanted to build a better potato. According to Andina news agency, Kawsay potatoes have up to 50 per cent more micronutrients than normal potatoes, and are specially designed to help fight anemia.
Andina reports that researchers are primarily working on introducing Kawsay potatoes to high-altitude regions of the Peruvian Andes, where anemia and malnutrition are serious problems.
The Kawsay variety is also reportedly very hardy and resistant to harvest-destroying fungus. Researcher’s claim farmers don’t have to apply any special chemicals to their Kawsay crops in order to avoid blight, which is a boon for producers and consumers alike.
Andina reports that the Kawsay variety is currently being cultivated in the Huancavelica, Andahuaylas, and Huanuco regions of Peru, and could arrive in the Lima market by mid-2014. For more information visit Peru This Week. www.peruthisweek.com
TOMRA OFFERS NEW POTATO SORTER
TOMRA Sorting Solutions has introduced a whole new potato sorter on the market. According to the company, the Field Potato Sorter is the first effective optical sorter for unwashed potatoes. The machine uses biometric signature identification technology to separate earth, stones and other materials from the potatoes. It also removes rotten potatoes.
Alain De Puydt of TOMRA is pleased with the introduction. “Feedback is great,” he says. The FPS belongs to a new generation of sorting machines. The special feature of a FPS is that the potatoes can be sorted immediately after harvesting and do not need to be washed in order to create contrast. “That’s the strength of the FPS,” says De Puydt. “The machine removes everything, from all clods, all foreign objects, basically everything that is not a potato.”
According to De Puydt, what makes FPS and the new generation of TOMRA machines unique is their sensitivity, efficiency and ease of operation. “We are now focusing on Western Europe,” explains De Puydt, “but because of the success we will expand to North America and the rest of the world.” For more information visit TOMRA Sorting Solutions. http://www.tomra.com
December 12, 2013
BAYER OFFERS NEW FOLIAR FUNGICIDE IN CANADA
Bayer CropScience Canada has announced the registration of Luna Tranquility as a foliar fungicide for potatoes. A trusted fungicide for apples and grapes, Luna Tranquility is an all-in-one formulation that includes a new and unique Group 7 (fluopyram) and proven Group 9 (pyrimethanil) modes of action. According to Bayer, Luna Tranquility provides unparalleled disease protection against the leaf spot complex (early blight and brown leaf spot), white mould and black dot.
“With a unique Group 7 and 9 mode of action, Luna Tranquility is able to control early blight and brown leaf spot unlike any other previous fungicides,” says David Kikkert, portfolio manager, horticulture at Bayer CropScience Canada. In addition to early blight and brown leaf spot control, Luna Tranquility controls white mould and has activity on black dot, helping growers manage many diseases with one product. It can be applied by either ground or air. “Used in a preventative spray program, Luna Tranquility will help growers combat major yield robbing diseases and produce better yielding, high quality potatoes,” explains Kikkert. For more information visit Bayer CropScience. www.cropscience.bayer.ca
P.E.I. POTATO BOARD ELECTS NEW EXECUTIVE
The Prince Edward Island Potato Board has a new executive following its recent board of directors meeting. Gary Linkletter was re-elected as chairman of the board. Linkletter is currently serving his second three-year term representing the tablestock sector for the Summerside District. He is a partner in Linkletter Farms, a family farm operation that grows seed, table and processing potatoes.
Alex Docherty of Skyeview Farms Ltd. is the new vice-chairman of the board representing the seed sector from the Charlottetown District. Owen Ching returns as the secretary-treasurer for the board representing the tablestock sector for the Montague-Souris District. Also joining the board are two new directors: David Francis of Lady Fane representing seed producers from the Summerside District; and Rodney Dingwall of Morell representing processing growers from the Montague/Souris District.
Returning board directors include: Daryl Wilkie, Donald Godfrey, Irwin Jay, Darryl Wallace, Charles Murphy, Kirk Shea and Barry Green. Ian Drake also joins the board as a young farmers’ representative in an ex-officio capacity. For more information visit the Prince Edward Island Potato Board. http://www.peipotato.org/
NEW APPROACH TO ZEBRA CHIP CONTROL
Zebra chip disease in potatoes is currently being managed by controlling the potato psyllid with insecticides. But one Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service specialist is trying to manage the disease symptoms with alternative methods and chemistries.
The disease is caused by a bacterium, Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum, which is transmitted by the psyllid, says Ron French, AgriLife Extension plant pathologist in Amarillo, Texas. “Biological control methods can target psyllid populations in a field, but it takes a while for them to be effective, and by then the insect has already transmitted the bacterium into the plant, especially if that psyllid flew into the field. It only takes a few hours for a psyllid to acquire and transmit the bacterium from plant to plant,” French says.
French is conducting his studies using alternative controls as a part of the Zebra Chip Specialty Crop Research Initiative sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture. “We are looking at three different approaches: bactericides, plant defense response and plant nutrients,” he says. “We are trying to alleviate the disease symptoms on tubers and throughout the plant, and improve plant health so that any negative impacts the psyllid, bacterium, disease or pesticide use are having on the plant can translate into improved yields.”
His efforts to control the pathogen using foliar applications of a bactericide has had good results for two years when psyllid populations in the field and the instances of zebra chip were significant, French says. A significant increase in yield, 30 per cent, was recorded in potato yields.
But French says the problem is the next step, getting the bactericide labeled for use on potatoes. “Bactericides for potatoes are labeled only for seed treatments, although foliar applications in the field are allowed on some tree fruits crops. If we can include bactericides in a program that can minimize insecticide use, then this could be part of an integrated disease management approach,” he explains.
In his approach to the plant defence response, French says he is trying to produce something like a systemic acquired resistance or induced systemic resistance response from the potato against the pathogen. “To do that, we hope to use several compounds to see if the plant can actually trigger a mechanism to defend itself from the pathogen and the psyllid as well,” he says. “We hope to be able to do laboratory studies to determine if these systemic acquired resistance compounds work, and if so, why are they working? Year after year there are differences in the field as far as climate, disease pressure, insect pressure, so sometimes we have to go to the lab to figure out why it works one time and not another.”
The third and last approach he is studying is using plant nutrients to offset the damage caused by the psyllid or the pathogen and any nutrient imbalances that result, or any phytotoxicity that might occur after applying pesticides, French says. “We are adding micro- and macro-nutrients and other fertilizers.” A macro-nutrient is something the plant readily needs like nitrogen and phosphorus, and a micro-nutrient is something the plant needs in small amounts, like zinc or boron, for plant functions. “In the past two years we actually had very good results with a combination of micro- and macro-nutrients that were applied bi-weekly after flowering on the potato,” French says. “We saw a 43 per cent total yield increase in 2012 and a 45 per cent increase in 2013 in comparison to the control or regular grower practices.”
Tuber symptoms associated with zebra chip were only as high as three per cent in 2012 and 10 per cent in 2013, but that does not take into account foliar symptoms, potential insect damage and other yield-limiting factors, he says. The plan is to repeat these studies in 2014 with other nutrient and non-nutrient approaches. For more information visit Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service. http://today.agrilife.org/
November 28th, 2013
GENETIC BLUEPRINT OF POTATOES REVEALED
An international group of researchers from 14 countries has unraveled the sequence of the potato genome, which will make it possible to identify the genes responsible for potato crop quality and performance. Almost 40,000 genes were identified and classified in a genetic map.
Sergio Feingold, director of the agro-biotechnology laboratory at Argentina’s National Institute of Agricultural Technology (INTA), calls the achievement “a great discovery” which opens the possibility of identifying genes of particular agronomic, nutritional and industrial interest and incorporating them in potato improvement programs.
The INTA scientists managed to integrate the potato genome with other genetic and physical maps, as well as that of other crops such as tomatoes. From these findings, specialists will be able to reinterpret the discoveries made over the past 30 years connecting DNA regions to potato characteristics of interest. They can then identify the genes responsible for these associations, which could lead to improvements in such areas as potato performance, sanitary characteristics and nutritional benefits. For more information visit INTA.
FEWER POTATO ACRES IN IDAHO
Despite fewer acres dedicated to potatoes, Idaho’s growers were able to limit the drop in volume this season with better yields.
“We had more potatoes last year than this year,” says Frank Muir, CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission. “This sets us up well to have good prices for our growers. Prices started out higher this year than last year, and I think that trend will continue throughout the year.” Those prices are a result of less volume this year on account of fewer planted acres throughout the state. Weather conditions were good throughout the harvest, which ran from July through October, and that contributed to increased productivity.
“Even with some heat issues, yields were up this year,” says Muir. “Growers harvested more potatoes per acre, so even though there were fewer acres harvested, our yields were up.” Last year’s harvested acres reached 342,000 acres, up 23,000 acres from the previous year, and this year’s acreage fell to 315,000 acres. Muir chalks up the drop to adjustments on the part of growers to find a good medium between too much product, which would lead to lower prices, and not enough production to satisfy demand.
“We probably had more acres than we needed last year,” says Muir. “So growers stabilized down to what’s more of a right-sized crop.” The drop in production, estimated at around six per cent from last year, didn’t affect quality, as Muir noted that sizing has been better than in previous years. For more information visit Idaho Potato Commission.
The Prince Edward Island potato industry learned at its annual meeting held recently in Charlottetown that the new European trade agreement will result in increased Canadian exports and reduced tariffs in the years ahead.
“The comprehensive economic trade agreement announced in October will open new markets throughout the European Union and benefit the Canadian economy by $12 billion,” said Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea.
“Current European Union tariffs can impose real burdens on our exporters” said Shea, adding that on - P.E.I. agricultural exports that are worth $4.5 million annually, these tariffs - can be almost 14 per cent. Shea said those tariffs and an 18 per cent surcharge on frozen french fry products – which makes up more than half the entire P.E.I. harvest – will also disappear when the agreement kicks in, which could happen by 2015. For more information visit Truro Daily News.
November 14, 2013
DEMAND HIGH FOR P.E.I. POTATOES
The potato harvest in Prince Edward Island is complete and world-famous P.E.I. potatoes are appearing on supermarket shelves and restaurant menus across Canada and the northeastern United States. Island potato growers are reporting a good crop of excellent quality potatoes this year.
According to Greg Donald, general manager of the Prince Edward Island Potato Board, the demand for P.E.I. potatoes is up this year. “If the movement we are seeing to all markets so far is any indication … we are optimistic that demand for P.E.I. potatoes will continue to be strong throughout the shipping season,” says Donald.
Movement of P.E.I. potatoes has increased to all markets, with significant increases in export activity to the United States and several Caribbean nations. Staff at the P.E.I. Potato Board say they receive inquiries from as far away as Alberta and California from consumers looking to purchase P.E.I. potatoes in their local area, as they value the taste and quality of potatoes that come from the Island.
This fall and winter, television viewers can look for advertisements featuring P.E.I. potatoes on the Food Network Canada that are part of a collaborative advertising program with the P.E.I. Culinary Alliance. Learn More
SCOUTING FOR POTATO PSYLLIDS
The potato psyllid can be a problem for more than just the potato plant, according to Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists. And it is not only the commercial potato grower who should be scouting, the researchers say.
Arash Rashed, AgriLife Research postdoctoral research scientist, and Charlie Rush, AgriLife Research plant pathologist, are monitoring the year-round existence of potato psyllids across Texas for a project funded by the Texas Department of Agriculture and the Zebra Chip Specialty Crop Research Initiative.
The tiny insect is named the potato psyllid because that is the primary crop damaged by the bacterium it carries, which causes zebra chip of the potato, Rush says. While zebra chip is not harmful to humans, infected potatoes show dark stripes when chipped or fried and are rejected by major manufacturers, causing serious economic loss. Since the start of the initiative in 2009, one thing scientists are looking closer at is crops other than potatoes that can be damaged by the tiny insect or other plants that host potato psyllids during the off-season.
The study is closely monitoring the year-round activities of the psyllid to try to determine if local populations thrive in wild plants in the absence of cultivated potato fields, or migrate every year through the various regions with the help of wind trajectories, warmer temperatures and potato growth, or a combination of these factors. “We want to see how the population of psyllids changes throughout the year — especially when the potatoes are not present,” Rashed says. The general belief is psyllid populations build up in northern Mexico or warmer locations and, as the temperatures rise, move northward as far as the Canadian border, he adds.
However, after a year-long process, which included collecting yellow sticky traps every two weeks in Texas locations from as far south as San Antonio to Dalhart in the north, Rashed says he has trapped psyllids someplace with almost every collection in northern Texas, even during the snowy winter months. This, combined with recent findings of local over-wintering populations in Idaho, indicates a strong possibility that localized populations may have a cold tolerance and survive harsh winters, he maintains. Visit AgriLife.
KEY TECHNOLOGY INTRODUCES CLEANBELT
Key Technology has introduced CleanBelt, a new clean-in-place (CIP) system for ADR 5, an automatic defect removal system for potato strips. This automated CIP system reduces sanitation and maintenance labour requirements, minimizes the cost of replacement parts, and helps maintain the optimal performance of the ADR 5 system to accurately match product quality to specifications.
“Starch build-up is a persistent problem on potato strip production lines, especially on equipment with moving parts because starch hardens over time and on inspection equipment where build-up over viewing surfaces can degrade system performance. We’re addressing that with CleanBelt — it’s the first clean-in-place system for an ADR belt,” says Marco Azzaretti, advanced inspection systems product manager at Key Technology. “Having a consistently clean belt helps the ADR operate at peak performance.”
With a combination of passive and active cleaning systems, CleanBelt continuously removes starch from the ADR belt to prevent buildup. The consistency of this routine ensures a uniform inspection background for the ADR cameras over time, which eliminates the need to recalibrate the ADR and helps maintain optimal inspection performance without degradation. CleanBelt also eliminates the need to manually remove starch from between belt lanes and reduces the need for the ADR belt to be manually cleaned. Learn More.
U.S. REGULATORS TAKE AIM AT TRANS FATS
The U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced its preliminary determination that partially hydrogenated oils, the primary dietary source of artificial trans fat in processed foods, are not “generally recognized as safe” for use in food. The FDA’s preliminary determination is based on available scientific evidence and the findings of expert scientific panels.
The agency has opened a 60-day comment period on this preliminary determination to collect additional data and to gain input on the time potentially needed for food manufacturers to reformulate products that currently contain artificial trans fat should this determination be finalized.
“While consumption of potentially harmful artificial trans fat has declined over the last two decades in the United States, current intake remains a significant public health concern,” says FDA commissioner Margaret Hamburg.
Consumption of trans fat raises low-density lipoprotein, or “bad” cholesterol, increasing the risk of coronary heart disease. The Independent Institute of Medicine has concluded that trans fat provides no known health benefit and that there is no safe level of consumption of artificial trans fat. Additionally, the IOM recommends that consumption of trans fat should be as low as possible while consuming a nutritionally adequate diet.
Following a review of the submitted comments, if the FDA finalizes its preliminary determination, partially hydrogenated oils would be considered “food additives” and could not be used in food unless authorized by regulation. If such a determination were made, the agency would provide adequate time for producers to reformulate products in order to minimize market disruption. Learn More.
INTERNATIONAL POTATO TECHNOLOGY EXPO
The International Potato Technology Expo is returning to Prince Edward Island Feb. 21-22, 2014. Running biennially in Charlottetown since 1992, the event attracts visitors from as far away as Manitoba and the United States.
“Booth sales are strong — we are at 85 per cent sold, which is well ahead of where we were at this time for the 2012 event,” says show manager, Matt Mitchell. “There is a lot of optimism after a successful maritime harvest and we are excited to return to the Island for this event to showcase the latest equipment, products and services available to the region’s potato producers” says Mitchell.
This year’s show will boast nearly 100 booths and will encompass everything from seed to soil to growing to harvesting. www.potatoexpo.ca
CHC AGM 2014
The 2014 Canadian Horticultural Council’s annual general meeting will be held in Kelowna, B.C., from March 4-6, 2014.
With a theme of “Growing a Healthy Organization”, this year’s meeting will address high-priority matters for CHC members and include presentations and panel discussions on the many issues facing horticulture. CHC AGM 2014
October 17, 2013
FRUIT AND VEG SEED MARKET TO BE WORTH US$12.9 BILLION BY 2018
According to a new market research report, Fruit & Vegetable Seed Market, by Type & Geography - Global Trends & Forecast to 2018, published by MarketsandMarkets, the global fruit and vegetable seed market is expected grow from US$6,276.5 million in 2012 to $12,961.4 million by 2018, with a compound annual growth rate of 12.8 per cent from 2013 to 2018.
The report segments the global market into the following regions: North America, Europe, Asia-Pacific, Latin America, and Rest of the World. Europe was the largest market for fruit and vegetable seed in 2012, followed by North America and the Asia-Pacific region. The report estimates approximately $4,562.4 million in revenue will be generated in the European market by 2018.
The global market is also segmented by crops that consist of brassica, cucurbit, leafy root-bulb, and solanaceae crop types, such as potatoes. Brassica crops include cabbage, cauliflower and broccoli; cucurbit crops include melon, watermelon, cucumber and squash; leafy crops include lettuce and spinach; root bulb crops include onion and carrot; and solanaceae crops consist of pepper, eggplant and tomato. According to the report, solanaceae crops dominate the global fruit and vegetable seed market. Brazil is the leading market in Latin America. China and France are the largest markets in Asia-Pacific and Europe, respectively.
According to the report, the seed market is mainly driven by such factors as per capita decreasing land, a high profitability margin, acceptance of precision farming and protected agriculture, changes in farming practices, and technology.
The report lists Monsanto (U.S.), Syngenta (Switzerland), Bayer CropScience (Germany), Limagrain (France), Takii & Co. Ltd (Japan), Sakata Seed Corp (Japan), and Rijk Zwaan (Netherlands) as key players in the global fruit and vegetable seed market. These companies have adopted various tactics for future growth and establishing a global presence, with new product launches the most common strategy. Read More.
INCOTEC EXPANDS NORTH AMERICAN VEGETABLE SEED BUSINESS
Incotec has added more personnel to its growing organization in the North American vegetable seed business. Steve Adams has been appointed account manager for AgriCoat LLC.
Adams is a long-time produce industry agricultural operations professional and will be responsible for all sales and marketing activities at AgriCoat.
Brad Kortsen has been appointed to the position of new product and business development manager at Incotec North America. In this new position, Korsten will focus full-time on customer solutions for Incotec vegetable as well as AgriCoat.
“These strategic moves represent a significant step forward for our organization. Steve brings a wealth of vegetable production experience and will be a great addition to our business, and having Brad in this new position will accelerate the growth of the organization in North America,” says Mac Keely, general manager for INCOTEC Vegetables North America. Read more.
MCCAIN CLOSES AUSSIE PROCESSING PLANT
McCain Foods has announced the December closure of its potato processing plant in Penola, South Australia. Louis Wolthers, McCain Foods’s regional president for Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, cites rising costs for inputs such as labour, electricity and raw materials as well surplus capacity as the main drivers of the closure.
Wolthers lists the low cost of potato imports as another factor behind the company’s decision.
“Cheaper potato imports are seriously threatening the future of the processing industry in Australia, and will place further cost pressures on Australia’s growers,” he says, adding that in just 10 years imports of cheaper processed potatoes had risen from 10,000 tonnes to 130,000 tonnes at the end of 2012.
About 15 operations near the South Australia/Victoria border grow approximately 130,000 tonnes of potatoes, most of which McCain processes into raw french fries which are then supplied to food retailers.
Including the Penola plant, four Australian fruit and vegetable processors have closed this year. McCain Foods will continue to process potatoes at plants in Smithton, Tasmania, and Ballarat, Victoria. Read more.
PBL PATENT ON LATE BLIGHT RESISTANCE GRANTED IN EU AND US
Plant Bioscience Limited’s patent on late blight resistance genes developed by Jonathan Jones and co-workers at the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, England, has been granted in Europe and the United States. The company reports that good progress is also being made in a number of other key territories affected by late blight disease in potatoes.
The patent consists of multiple resistance genes, which provide the ability to protect potatoes and tomatoes against late blight – the devastating disease that causes annual crop losses of about £3 billion. The patent also offers the potential to substantially reduce the use of fungicide applications and increase crop yields.
In ongoing field trials, PBL partners are reported to be making significant progress towards a commercial product. PBL is an independent technology management company specializing in plant, food and microbial science. Read more.
October 3, 2013
MCDONALD’S ADAPTING MENU
Under pressure to provide healthier meals, McDonald’s has announced it will no longer market some of its less nutritional options to children and says it also intends to include offerings of fruits and vegetables in many of its adult menu combinations. McDonald’s plans to make the changes to its menu in 20 of the company’s largest markets, which account for more than 85 per cent of its overall sales, including overseas. The company says it will take three years or more to have the new menus in place in about half the restaurants in those markets, and the remainder may not have the changes until 2020.
The offerings, which were announced in conjunction with the Clinton Foundation’s campaigns to reduce childhood obesity, are part of McDonald’s efforts to compete for health-conscious customers by featuring food choices that are lower in fat, salt or sugar content than its more traditional burger-and-fries options. Read more.
U.S. POATO EXPORTS SET RECORD
According to figures released by the U.S. Potato Board, total U.S. potato and product exports for 2012/2013 fiscal year increased four per cent in value to more than $1.6 billion and also rose four per cent in volume to more than 1.5 billion tonnes – both record levels. The fresh weight equivalent of these exports is 65,711,211 hundredweight, or approximately 17 per cent of U.S. potato production. U.S. potato and product exports have grown 133 per cent in value and 79 per cent in volume over the last 10 marketing years.
U.S. exports of frozen potato products in fiscal year 2012/2013 increased two per cent by volume to more than 925,000 tonnes and six per cent by value to just over $1 billion – first time exports of frozen products have surpassed the $1 billion mark. Exports to the USPB’s target markets increased four per cent in volume. The increase in exports to target markets was led by a 28 per cent increase in shipments to Mexico; 26 per cent increase to South Korea, eight per cent increase to Malaysia and a 15 per cent increase to Vietnam. These increases overcame a six per cent reduction in exports to Japan due to the 26 per cent devaluation of the Japanese Yen which resulted in a curb on all imports.
U.S. exports of fresh potatoes to the world increased 13 per cent by volume to just over 450,000 tonnes, but were down four per cent by value to $196 million. Fresh exports include table-stock potatoes as well as chip-stock, and in the case of Canada, potatoes for frozen processing. The decline in the value of exports was mainly due to the reduction in unit value of exports to Canada and Mexico, though volume of exports to both markets did increase. Exports of fresh potatoes to the USPB’s target markets increased 24 per cent in volume and five per cent in value during fiscal year 2012/2013. The largest target market is Mexico with exports up 10 per cent in volume to almost 80,000 tonnes.
The USPB anticipates U.S. potato and product exports to continue to grow in fiscal year 2013/2014.The size of future increases will be impacted by fluctuations in exchange rates, economic growth in the markets and the relative supply and price of competitor products. Read more.
USPB NAMES NEW PRESIDENT/CEO
The United States Potato Board has named produce industry veteran, Blair Richardson, as president and CEO. Over the past four years, Richardson served as CEO for the combined entities of WesPak Sales Inc. and Enns Packing Inc., located in Dinuba, Calif.
Born in Texas where his family has been involved in farming and ranching for many generations, dating back to the era when the region was still part of Mexico, Richardson attended Texas A&M University where he received a Bachelor of Science degree in Agricultural Economics with a secondary focus on Business Administration and Finance.|
In 2005, Richardson was recognized as a leader in the produce industry when he received the Produce Business “40 Under 40” award for both the domestic and international categories. Read more.
September 19, 2013
LOW-GI POTATO ATTRACTS ATTENTION
Researchers have developed what they claim is the world’s first low-GI potato. The Carisma potato was developed using natural breeding processes by Virginia market gardener Frank Mitolo and the Australian Glycemic Index Foundation.
“We have undertaken exhaustive testing using the ISO testing standard and we are satisfied that Carisma is unique,” says Alan Barclay, chief scientific officer for the Australian GI Foundation. “Its glycemic index of 55 is between 30 per cent and 50 per cent less than other mainstream potato varieties such as Desiree (74), Russet Burbank (82) and Bintje (94),” he says.
“Our research showed that Carisma not only ranked well alongside other potatoes, but it is also comparable to other low-GI foods. Potatoes tend to get bad press as they are generally classified as a high-GI carbohydrate, but our research has discovered that Carisma has half the blood glucose response of other potato varieties.” says GI researcher Kai Lin Ek.
“It has a similar GI to pastas, all of which are usually classified as low-GI foods. Plus, potatoes have a higher ‘satiety index’ so you actually need to eat less than other carbohydrates to feel full,” says Barclay. Read more.
KWS POTATO STARTS NEW DUTCH IMPROVEMENT STATION
KWS Potato has begun operations at its new seed potato improvement station in the village of Nagele, located near Emmeloord in the Netherlands. KWS Potato is a subsidiary of the KWS group, which has invested more than €12 million in the project.
KWS Potato’s breeding, production and sales will be consolidate at the new facility, which offers sufficient space for demonstration and testing fields for other crops grown by the KWS group, such as sugar beet, corn and grain.
“For potato breeding, we are banking on the transfer of our know-how from other crops. State-of-the-art breeding tools such as molecular technologies, new breeding methodologies and tissue culture are not widely used today in potato breeding,” says Peter Hofmann, head of the KWS department for sugar beets and potatoes. “We want to become a technology leader in the potato world [in the] long-term. The breeding station is one key element in this process.” Read more.
HEAT STRESS STUDY COULD PROTECT POTATO YIELDS
High temperature is one of the most significant uncontrollable factors affecting potato yield. That’s why, in the face of climate change, it is more important than ever to understand why potato yields can be so dramatically reduced by hot weather, as well as find ways to develop new cultivars that are more resilient to higher temperatures. A new study by scientists at Scotland’s James Hutton Institute aims to identify genetic markers for tolerance to heat stress, which could be of great importance in future breeding programs to develop new potato cultivars less susceptible to high temperatures.
A new study by scientists at Scotland’s James Hutton Institute aims to identify genetic markers for tolerance to heat stress, which could be of great importance in future breeding programs to develop new potato cultivars less susceptible to high temperatures.
As the U.K. exports seed to countries where temperature stress is a growing problem, yield at higher temperature is an issue of increasing magnitude to the U.K. potato industry. There is also a real need to mitigate the effects of rising temperatures in regions of the U.K. to protect national food self-sufficiency.
Research into potato germplasm at the James Hutton Institute indicates there is a wide variation in the heat stress responses that may impact overall tuber yield. As heat stress tolerance is likely to be multigenic, understanding the basic physiological, biochemical and molecular responses to high temperatures can benefit breeding programs aimed at developing heat tolerant potato varieties, either by conventional targeted breeding or transgenic approaches.
“Although studies have previously examined heat stress responses in potato and other plants using a range of technologies, these have primarily focused on responses to heat shock or the immediate acclimatory phase following a shift to elevated temperature,” says Mark Taylor of the James Hutton Institute. “In our study we chose to examine the impact of high temperatures following acclimation of mature tuberizing plants to either typical, that is 22°C during the day and 16°C during the night, or elevated, 30°C daytime and 20°C nighttime, temperatures.
“We have combined physiological, biochemical and molecular analyses with a detailed time series of transcript and metabolite profiles in both the leaves and tubers. This analysis informs the underlying genetic and biochemical drivers of the plant’s physiological response and provides us with potential targets for developing potato varieties that can maintain yield in hotter temperatures,” says Taylor. Read more.
MORE THAN 15,000 VISITORS AT POTATO EUROPE
Last week Potato Europe took place in Emmeloord, Netherlands. More than 15,000 visitors from almost 50 countries took part, a large increase from the 11,000 participants in 2009. The number of exhibitors also increased compared to the last edition of Potato Europe in Holland.
During the fair, exhibition spaces were filled with interested parties from the entire international potato sector, from seeding exhibitors to packaging suppliers. Outside, various harvesting demonstrations were given.
Potato Europe is organized in a four-year cycle with Germany, Belgium, France and Holland the host countries. The next edition will take place next year on Sept. 3 and 4 in Bockerode, Germany. Read more.