September 30

2 Sisters' Andrew Edlin says the company's new bio refinery will help cut costs

Potato Power to Fuel British Food Plant

One of the UK’s biggest food manufacturers is turning to the power of the potato as it seeks new sources of energy to run its factory.

2 Sisters Food Group has installed a plant that allows surplus mash from its production line to be converted into electricity and heat, in a move that should cut carbon emissions by a fifth — and prove that you really can cash in your chips.

The anaerobic digestion plant takes peelings and unused potato that would otherwise go to waste. It is the size of a five-story building and will produce gas that can be used to generate electricity and heat.

A supplier to major British supermarkets for everything from pizza to soup and ready-made meals, 2 Sisters claims its plant in Carlisle, England should produce 3,500 megawatt hours per year of electricity or enough to power around 850 homes. It’s also expected to generate a further 5,000 megawatt hours per year in heat for the plant’s manufacturing processes.

Andrew Edlin, group sustainability director for 2 Sisters, said it was as much about cutting costs as saving the planet. “This is not just corporate PR. We will have improved profitability,” he says.

Because it is dealing predominantly with a single source of waste, the bio refinery is more efficient than other types that handle mixed waste, according to the company.

The potatoes are broken down by a macerator, then homogenised, pasteurized and sterilized before entering a four-stage digestion process that releases the energy. The waste residue can be used as fertilizer and could complete a circular journey back to one of 2 Sisters’ 700 chicken farms.

The company already has 70 solar installations and 10 wind farms across the business as part of a sustainability plan to reduce its annual power bill and water use. One day, 2 Sisters aims to become a net power generator, says Edlin.

For more information, visit the Financial Times.

New Digital Sorting Platform

New Digital Sorting Platform

Key Technology has introduced the all-new VERYX digital sorting platform, a suite of belt-fed and chute-fed sorters that offer high-performance capabilities and share a common user interface.

According to Key, VERYX, with its unprecedented full object surface coverage, multi-sensor data fusion and the highest resolution cameras and laser sensors available on a digital sorter, achieves new levels of detection and discrimination of foreign material (dFM) and product defects.

Advanced auto-learn, self-adjusting capabilities and recipe-driven operation will offer extreme ease-of-use and an intuitive user experience. As the world’s most intelligent sorting platform, VERYX improves product quality and maximizes yields, the company says.

“The platform will include widths ranging from 700 millimetres to 2100 millimetres for belt-fed and 700 millimetres to 1400 millimetres for chute-fed configurations and combines a highly innovative new mechanical architecture with intelligent decision making to maintain optimal performance through the entire production cycle,” says Louis Vintro, senior vice-president, new products and business development, for Key.

VERYX minimizes the need for operator interaction with the machine and establishes new standards of performance to offer exceptional customer value,” he adds. “VERYX complements our existing family of digital sorting systems allowing us to choose the optimal sorting solution for our customers’ specific needs.”

Every VERYX sorter is configured around the product characteristics, application requirements and process objectives of each customer. The platform includes belt-fed sorters as well as chute sorters fed by Key’s patented Chycane chute system. Available in a range of product inspection widths, VERYX satisfies small to very large production capacity requirements.

For food processors requiring true, full-product surface inspection of each object, Key can configure VERYX sorters with sensor arrangements that eliminate blind spots to maximize FM and defect removal. On belt-fed systems, the bottom cameras are positioned away from product splatter to ensure the lower sensor windows are not obstructed by build-up over time.

Eliminating this previously common performance degradation factor keeps bottom cameras continually operating at peak performance and makes VERYX the first sorter to offer sustained 100 per cent surface inspection throughout the production cycle, according to Key.

Another industry first is multi-sensor fusion at the pixel level. This advanced feature integrates the input from multiple cameras and lasers in relation to each image pixel. Fusing sensor data at a pixel level maximizes the signal contrast for enhanced differentiation between good and bad objects to more accurately identify and remove subtle product defects and challenging FM types.

Next-generation cameras and laser sensors offer twice the resolution capability of previous generation sorters to detect and remove the smallest defects and FM. With up to for channels of information from cameras and up to eight channels of information from the laser scanner, combined with advanced LED lighting that operates at optimal frequencies in relation to each sensor, Key customizes every VERYX sorter to match the customer’s requirements, from basic to the most complex.

The new product separation/ejection system is also tailored to each product application, with the distance between nozzles and the power of the valves varying for optimal management of the sort streams.

VERYX’s modular design enables food processors to easily upgrade their sorter in the field with the addition of more or different cameras, lasers or BioPrint hyperspectral sensor technology, as customer requirements evolve over time. Leveraging richer product information and Key’s powerful new data processing architecture and intelligent software, VERYX can make new and more robust sorting decisions while easing use.

Smart features such as auto-learning, self-adjustment algorithms, predictive system diagnostics, smart alarms, FMAlert and Sort-to-Grade will enable VERYX to operate virtually unattended during normal production. Operator qualification requirements are reduced, making it much faster and easier for a new operator to become a proficient user of the equipment compared to other sorters.

To further ease use, VERYX introduces an intuitive new user interface that can provide different views to users of various levels, depending on their needs. Recipe-driven operation ensures customers can count on consistent performance from their VERYX sorter day in, day out, including running the same product across multiple sorters in different lines or locations. The streamlined UI enables the sorter to run a different product or grade at the touch of a button.

VERYX features Key’s Information Analytics, a set of data acquisition and connectivity capabilities that allow users to gather a broad range of product and operational data from the sorter. The data can be made available for off-line analysis or connected to a customer’s SCADA or Manufacturing Execution System.

VERYX sorters leverage Key’s specialized material handling solutions to optimally convey and control each object through the sort process. This ensures ultimate accuracy in sorting out every piece of foreign material and defective product, avoiding the inadvertent removal of good product in the process. The all-new VERYX platform is designed to minimize sanitation requirements and simplify maintenance to reduce downtime and the customer’s total cost of ownership.

To learn more, visit Key Technology.

New Conveyor Belt for Potato Processing

New Conveyor Belt for Potato Processing

Cambridge Engineered Solutions has introduced PacLite, a new lighter-weight, flatwire conveyor belt with variable openings that is ideally suited for potato rock traps.

Manufactured using a new proprietary process developed by the company’s engineers, PacLite is 30-50 per cent stronger than a standard flatwire belt and weighs 10 per cent less than its predecessor, PacTitan.

“Since our inception, Cambridge has excelled at working to continuously improve the design and durability of our conveyor belts to solve the operational challenges our customers face including safety and hygiene, cleaning and maintenance and energy efficiency,” says Bob Maine, Cambridge director of engineering.

“PacLite represents our attention to detail in working with manufacturers to account for the total cost of ownership of conveyor belts used in their plants.”

PacLite’s weight, strength and open area allows it to work well for rock traps where dirt, stones, stems and debris need to be separated from potatoes and other root crops at the early stages of processing.

PacLite is available in both standard and heavy-duty versions and features Cambridge’s NokLokTM picket technology, a proprietary form of interlocking links that increases strength, durability and product stability and reduces belt stretch and distortion.

For more information, visit Cambridge Engineered Solutions.

Appointment at Global Food Sorting Business

Appointment at Global Food Sorting Business

TOMRA Sorting Food has appointed Thomas Molnar to the new position of global sales and marketing communications director for its food sorting business.

In his new role, Molnar will oversee all marketing communications and sales activity conducted worldwide by TOMRA. He will be based at TOMRA Sorting Food's headquarters in Leuven, Belgium, but will spend much of his time in the field, travelling to key regions to meet customers and discuss the challenges they face.

TOMRA has made the appointment as it looks to maintain and strengthen the position of its food business in America and Europe as well as emerging markets such as India, south and central America and Asia.

Molnar, who is fluent in five languages, has a strong background in B2B international business development having lived and worked in 12 countries across three continents in a variety of service sectors, including tobacco, logistics, and information technology.

His role will be focused on supporting TOMRA's growth strategy and ensuring the sales and marketing communication function within the company is agile and robust to meet future needs of customers.

"TOMRA Sorting Food is the undisputed technology and market leader of the sector. It is in the middle of a very busy period, having completed a number of acquisitions in recent years, and is in a strong position to grow and take the next steps in further strengthening and growing its position globally and within new emerging economies,” said Molnar.

"It is a crucial time for TOMRA Sorting Food and I am looking forward to the challenges which lie ahead. It is essential that we capitalize on the position we currently hold by continuing to innovate and invest in developing new food sorting technologies, which respond to ever-changing global societal trends.”

Ashley Hunter, TOMRA senior vice-president, said: "We have appointed Thomas at this time in support of our growth strategy globally growing, leading and supporting our sales channels and ensuring they are equipped with the necessary skills, tools and knowledge as a partner in meeting the food industry sorting needs.

"Thomas has significant expertise across a range of areas in business-to-business development and has experience of working in different cultures and geographies, which will be extremely beneficial to us,” Hunter said.

"We are excited about his appointment and look forward to his leadership of our sales and marketing communications organisation and our sales channels to serve our customers as true partners in providing sorting solutions that meet the needs of their businesses now and for the future."

To learn more, visit

McDonald's UK to Use Only British Potatoes

McDonald's UK to Use Only British Potatoes

McDonald’s restaurants in the UK are going to start sourcing potatoes from British farmers only, as the fast food giant looks to appeal to customers more conscious about where their meals come from.

While most of its spuds are already supplied from Britain, McDonald’s UK also currently sources potatoes from countries across Europe. The move, which starts later this month, will mean an extra £9 million (C $18 million) for British farmers on top of the £70 million (C $142 million) McDonald’s spends with them each year.

McDonald’s is one of the largest buyers of British potatoes, and the company expects to buy a quarter of a million tonnes of potatoes this year. The group also sources all its pork, eggs and milk from British farmers.

“A succession of wet harvests has caused the British potato sector great uncertainty in recent years, so I hope our long-term commitment to only source from this country will give farmers the confidence to innovate and supply chain director at McDonald’s UK.

It comes as part of a wider £350 million (C $712 million) investment program in the UK, as the group overhauls its 1,250 stores in the country and transforms its menu offerings. Despite reporting lower sales in the US, McDonald’s has enjoyed 37 consecutive quarters of growth in the UK, and plans to open up to 30 new outlets a year there this decade.

For more information, visit The Telegraph.

Potatoes that Don’t Absorb Oil

An Italian firm has developed a new product – potato slices that can be fried but do not absorb oil, according to the company.

The Distretto tecnologico agroalimentare della Regione Puglia (DARe) combined the needs of private companies with the findings of researchers to create this new product. The potatoes will be processed by Farris, part of the Giardinetto co-operative.

President Giorgio Mercuri told FreshPlaza that "we are among the co-founders of DARe Puglia, so we can use its innovations to meet customer demands. The development of these healthy chips lasted two years and ended two weeks ago with the industry tests."

Through to a patented process, the potatoes are dehydrated and sliced. No salt is added and they can be fried in just a few seconds.

"This means they are indeed fried but they remain dry, as they do not absorb oil. Customers can add salt as they please, we do not add anything," Mercuri said.

The potatoes can be stored in a closed bag up to 24 months and will be available in spring 2016.

To learn more, visit Fresh Plaza

Security Cameras Used for Potato Harvest

P.E.I.'s potato harvest is now underway and many farmers have installed security cameras in their fields and around machinery due to potato tampering concerns.

Last fall, sharp steel needles and other metal objects were detected in P.E.I. potatoes at processing plants and in bags sold throughout the Atlantic region. A number of metal objects were found in potatoes again this spring.

Alex Docherty, P.E.I. Potato Board chairman, is among the farmers who have set up cameras for 24/7 surveillance. "We're pretty confident it was this time of year that the cowards did what they did to the industry last fall. I doubt they're stupid enough to do it again, but it would be great to catch them," he says.

Docherty adds his motion-activated cameras have already caught several trespassers on his land. He has handed some of that footage to police and to conservation officers for further investigation.

Farmers are also posting no-trespassing signs on potato fields, something they rarely did in the past.

The potato board is asking all residents of rural P.E.I., especially those living near potato fields, to be vigilant. "We're just asking if they see suspicious vehicles or anybody in the field that shouldn't be there, just to contact us, the owners of the fields, or the RCMP," says Docherty.

The RCMP continues to investigate the potato tampering incidents., and the P.E.I. Potato Board has offered a cash reward to catch whoever's responsible.

The potato industry has also installed metal detectors in many sorting and processing stations. The potato board says the extra security had added millions of dollars to the cost of production.

For more information, visit CBC News.

September 16

Canadian Potato Chip Coming to U.S.

Canadian Potato Chip Coming to U.S.

The Ruffles brand is bringing its top-selling Canadian potato chip flavor — Ruffles All Dressed — to the United States for a limited time.

According to Dana Lawrence, senior director of marketing at Frito-Lay, All Dressed is a tantalizing combination of the most popular flavors and tastes — salty, savory and sweet. Mixing them together into a hearty, ridged potato chip changes everything for the better, says Lawrence.

"You don't know quite what to expect when you put Ruffles All Dressed chips in your mouth," Lawrence adds. "That's part of the charm and discovery. This is not a light and crispy chip. Ruffles All Dressed potato chips are for people looking for more — more ridges, more flavor, more fun."

Ruffles All Dressed is the most popular Ruffles chip flavor in Canada. "To say Ruffles All Dressed has a cult following in Canada is like saying it sometimes snows there a little," says Lawrence.

The Ruffles All Dressed chips will be available to American consumers until Dec. 7. Ruffles potato chips is one of the many brands that makes up Frito-Lay North America, the $14-billion convenient foods business unit of PepsiCo. To learn more, visit PR Newswire.

U.S. Potato Exports Down

American potato exports dropped for the first time in a decade, according to new estimates. The value of U.S. spud exports, estimated at nearly US$1.625 billion, was down seven per cent from the previous year, according to a report from the U.S. Potato Board.

Export volume — estimated at nearly 68 million hundredweight on a fresh weight equivalent — was down about five per cent, but still amounted to the second highest export volume on record, according to USPB.

USPB Chief Marketing Officer John Toaspern sees a rosier export outlook for the current crop, given that the port labor dispute has been resolved, the Euro is strengthening and this year’s European potato crop should be down due to reduced acreage and some weather challenges. “I do think we will resume growth this coming year,” Toaspern said.

Toaspern added that the port slowdown created lingering problems that are still being resolved, including foreign buyers switching to other suppliers and a mid-summer glut caused by U.S. spud products finally arriving on top of replacement purchases. He said USPB committed an additional $300,000 and reallocated some of its USDA Market Access Program dollars, emphasizing Japan and South Korea, to win back lost U.S. customers.

USPB reported the largest export reduction occurred in the frozen category, where exports, estimated at $890 million, were down by 11 per cent. Frozen export volume, with a fresh weight equivalent of nearly 4.7 million, was down 12 per cent.

Japan, the major foreign buyer of U.S. frozen potatoes, cut its U.S. volume by 23 per cent and its global frozen purchases by 13 per cent. Europe and New Zealand, however, increased their Japanese frozen exports, according to USPB. U.S. frozen export volumes also declined by 21 per cent to China, nine per cent to Korea, 29 per cent to Taiwan, 27 per cent to Malaysia and 22 per cent to Hong Kong.

U.S. frozen exports to Mexico were up one percent in volume and six percent in value, as Mexico buys mostly from the U.S. and Canada, and the market wasn’t affected by the port slowdown. Other countries in which U.S. frozen exports made volume gains included Australia, up 44 per cent, Canada, up 23 per cent, and Central America, up 16 per cent.

Fresh potato exports, estimated at $183 million, declined by 12 per cent in value, and the volume, at almost nine million hundredweight, was down by seven percent. Fresh shipments were down 18 per cent to Canada, the largest market for fresh U.S. potatoes. Mexico, the second largest fresh market, increased its fresh U.S. purchases by 15 per cent, despite restrictions that continue to allow access only in the area near the country’s border with the U.S.

Seed potato exports were down 32 per cent in value and 24 per cent in volume, according to USPB.

Dehydrated potatoes increased by three per cent in value to a record $212 million. Dehydrated export volume, with a fresh weight equivalent of nearly 20.56 million hundredweight, increased by 10 per cent. The gains were largely due to a 54 per cent increase in volume to Japan, now the second largest market for dehydrated U.S. potato products behind Canada. Large dehydrated export gains were also made in China, up 46 per cent by volume, and Korea, up 66 per cent. For more information, visit Capital Express.

Idaho Growers Report Big Size, Fewer Tubers

Potato farmers in Idaho are reporting fewer, but larger potatoes at the start of harvest this year, prompting consumer bag prices to rise and cartons to drop.

Growers — who are now digging early maturing varieties such as Russet Norkotah, specialty types, reds and Ranger Russets — anticipate yields will be down from last season, but will still be above average. “It’s a good crop — definitely bigger (tuber) size,” said Aberdeen grower Doug Ruff, who started digging chip potatoes on Sept. 11.

Grower Ritchie Toevs has been happy with the lack of rot and high percentage of dry matter in his spuds and anticipates bulk will make up for reduced tuber numbers. His quality has been variable.

“We have one field that’s beautiful and another one that’s course,” Toevs said. “Last year, where they were smaller, they were all smooth. This year, some of our big potatoes had knobs.”

Toevs maintained the return to Idaho growers remains well below the cost of raising spuds. “I don’t know why we don’t manage shipments. It’s frustrating,” he said.

Grower Doug Gross said his Norkotah yields and quality are average and his Rangers are slightly above average. He said the crop profile is about the opposite of last season, and prices are “flip-flopping.”

“The old crop is pretty well gone and the new crop, it looks like there’s better size,” Gross said. “The carton sizes are starting to decline (in price), and the consumer bags are starting to rise.”

Retired economist Paul Patterson is hopeful that cheaper prices during the past season triggered more consumption of fresh spuds, thereby changing consumer behavior. Though Russet Burbank harvest won’t commence until later this month, Idaho Potato Commission President and CEO Frank Muir said test digs indicate Idaho’s major variety will also have larger size but fewer tubers beneath each plant.

“Based on what I’m seeing at this point, quality will be very good to excellent but overall yield will probably be down from a year ago,” Muir said.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates Idaho growers planted 325,000 acres this season, up 4,000 acres from last season. Muir believes lower yield and bigger spuds this season should result in a marketable crop.

“I think we’ve got a crop from all indications that would validate holding carton prices at a premium rate where they should be relative to bags,” Muir said. “They don’t need to be discounted.” To learn more, visit Capital Express.

New Fungicide for Late Blight

Syngenta has announced that Orondis fungicide has been approved for use by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency as the first fungicide in the Fungicide Resistance Action Committee's (FRAC) group U15. Pending state registrations, Orondis could be available for the 2016 season in the United States.

Orondis contains the active ingredient oxathiapiprolin and offers a new mode of action for control of economically important soil and foliar diseases caused by Oomycete fungi in potatoes and other crops. Syngenta secured a license to develop and market products containing oxathiapiprolin from DuPont in 2013 and has exclusive rights in North America for foliar and soil use on vegetables, potatoes, tobacco, and other specialty crops.

A Syngenta spokesperson calls Orondis an excellent foundation fungicide and offers growers a new tool in their disease control programs. Its new mode of action complements and enhances the company’s diverse fungicide portfolio.

Orondis will be marketed as three multi-packs of separately registered products:

  • Orondis and Ridomil Gold fungicide for control of soil-borne Oomycete diseases vegetables and tobacco
  • Orondis and Bravo fungicide for control of downy mildew and late blight in potatoes and vegetables
  • Orondis and Revus fungicide for control of downy mildew and late blight in leafy vegetables (lettuce and spinach), potatoes, tobacco, and other vegetables

A company news release says Orondis showed outstanding efficacy in trials at significantly lower active ingredient rates, compared with other fungicides. It demonstrated an ability to greatly reduce disease severity in treated fields and provide measurable improvements in yield. For more information, visit the Western Farm Express.

Key Technology Appoints New Director

Randy Unterseher
Randy Unterseher

Key Technology has appointed Randy Unterseher to the position of senior director of aftermarket for North America and the Intercontinental region, which includes Latin America, Asia Pacific and Australia/New Zealand.

Key Technology is a global leader in the design and manufacture of process automation systems including digital sorters, conveyors, and processing equipment. Its aftermarket team delivers Key’s PROliance suite of services and support, including training, parts, upgrades, 24/7 telephone support and localized service technicians.

“Key is very well respected for its superior customer service around the world, and we’re continuing to build on our commitment to achieve 100 per cent customer satisfaction. We recently brought our aftermarket group and sales team together under one umbrella to strengthen our customer-facing focus,” noted Steve Pellegrino, senior vice president of global sales at Key Technology. “Randy is ideally suited to help lead our Aftermarket group. He has a deep understanding of our markets and customers as well as our equipment. We are excited to have him back at Key.”

Unterseher brings 28 years of leadership experience in the food processing industry to his position, including 20 years with Key. Most recently he was vice president of marketing at Lyco Manufacturing. Prior to that, he held a number of management positions at Key in marketing, sales operations and sales engineering.

“I’m excited to leverage my knowledge of technology in a connected world to make Key’s service and support a seamless experience for customers. Earlier this year, Key introduced its new online service desk with easy access to track and search support tickets and its online portal for up-to-date technical manuals. I’m here to help take Key’s service to the next level,” said Unterseher. “I’m proud to focus my energy on important initiatives that are designed to maximize customer satisfaction.”

To learn more, visit Key Technologies.

Low Potato Production in East Africa

Lack of improved seeds, use of obsolete technology, lack of access to credit, effects of climate change and cartel-like behavior are some of the factors being blamed for low potato production in the East African Community.

At a recent regional Africa forum on the EAC potato value chain staged in Rwanda by the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme, participants also blamed governments of EAC countries for failing to allocate adequate funding for the production of seeds and value addition. Eastern Africa Farmers Federation CEO Stephen Muchiri said the current situation has seen major hotels and traders turn to Morocco, Egypt and South Africa to meet demand for the crop.

He added that there is high potential for a potato value chain in East Africa, but the crop has been neglected, despite Rwanda having one of the highest-quality produce in the world. In Kenya, the potato sub-sector is largely dominated by cartels that dictate price and segment the market, Muchiri said, adding the crop is mainly grown by small-scale farmers although some larger-scale growers specialize in commercial production.

“Potatoes are grown by over 800,000 farmers, cultivating 60,000 acres, but a majority are smallholders and only produce enough for household consumption,” he said.

The potato is the second-most important food crop in Kenya after maize, but it is increasingly being regarded as junk food as a result of the growing consumption of french fries and chips. This has significantly affected the potato’s role in fulfilling standard dietary needs and also undermined its potential contribution to food and nutritional security in Kenya, Muchiri said. For more information, visit Standard Digital.

August 20, 2015

potato plant infected with late blight

Idaho Late Blight Outbreak Now Widespread

A recent spate of high humidity and thunderstorms has enabled late blight to proliferate in potato fields across a swath of southeast Idaho, according to potato researcher Jeff Miller.

Miller, with Idaho-based Miller Research, has been advising growers in eight counties to spray fungicides weekly — or every five days if storms roll in and threaten to further spread the spore load.

Typically, Idaho's hot and dry conditions keep late blight in check.

Miller has encouraged one grower with severe infection to kill vines early to limit the spore load. In most cases, however, he's found light infections of the devastating fungal disease are scattered throughout fields and haven't spread in clusters, thanks to rigorous fungicide programs.

But the even distribution of lesions — brown patches often surrounded by light-green halos — has prevented growers from controlling the spread by killing vines in isolated areas.

"As of now, it doesn't look like the blight is to the point of devastation, but you can find lesions almost anywhere you go in fields," Miller said, adding it's become the worst Idaho late blight outbreak he's witnessed since 1998.

In central Minidoka County, where his own research fields are, he's mapped late blight covering 15 miles from north to south and 10 miles from east to west.

Minidoka County crop advisor Gordon Harper has also increased his growers' fungicide programs to weekly, compared with every 14 days in a normal year, using more costly but effective products, and cutting into their already tight profit margins.

"This is the worst I've seen it as far as widespread and fairly easy to find, and as big of a coverage as I've seen it," Harper said.

All late blight samples in the state have tested as U.S. 23, the same strain found in the Blackfoot area after heavy August rains last season. Miller suspects the current Eastern Idaho outbreak marks the first time the disease has overwintered in Idaho volunteers. For more information, visit Capital Press.

Nurse Crop Project Aimed at Increasing Potato Yields

Representatives from McCain Foods are excited about a new project underway in Aroostook County in Maine that has some farmers planting their usual acreage of potatoes right on top of a bed of winter rye, barley or oats.

The "nurse crop" project is underway in 10 to 12 spots in Aroostook, Brianne O'Leary, senior field representative for McCain Foods said in a recent interview.

The planting project is part of the Drive for 45, which is a potato industry initiative in Maine and New Brunswick aimed at increasing potato yields by 45 hundredweight per acre over several years to compete with growers in the Pacific Northwest.

The nurse crop idea was visualized and tried first in Grand Falls, N.B., by McCain Foods agronomist Gilles Moreau.

The process works by first spreading the winter rye, or other selected nurse crop, over a potato field just before the potatoes are planted. The winter rye establishes quickly, according to O'Leary, germinating in about five to six days. That crop then grows for about three weeks, she said, protecting the soil from erosion during rainy periods. When growers start to cultivate their potato crop, the rye gets incorporated back into the soil.

During Moreau's first year of the nurse crop trial, O'Leary said, he saw a significant yield increase on his half-acre plot. After the success Moreau experienced, McCain Foods green lit the project for growers to try on both sides of the Canada-U.S. border.

In all, about 10 growers from Maine and seven growers from New Brunswick decided to seed a nurse crop along with their potato crop on a trial plot on their own farms this year, O'Leary said. One of the biggest benefits of doing so is soil conservation.

"The recommended nurse crop is winter rye because it germinates quickly, will grow in a variety of conditions, and is shallow rooted, so as not to compete with the potato crop for nutrients," O'Leary said. "Maine growers planted 150 acres, and New Brunswick growers planted 250 acres."

She added that after potatoes are planted, the soil normally would be bare for three to four weeks until the potato plants emerge. The nurse crop, however, protects the vital soil during that period by minimizing surface runoff of rain. A second goal, according to O'Leary, is to create additional organic matter through the rye shoots and roots that are mixed into the top layer of the soil at the time the potatoes emerge.

Matt Porter of Porter Farms in Presque Isle, Maine said that on his sixth generation farm where he works with his father and where he himself has farmed for 15 years, he grew winter rye on some of his 900 acres of potatoes.

"It went well," he said. "We planted the crop, and I walked away from it, and when I came back the field was very green," he said. "It was just the data from New Brunswick that really convinced us to give it a try. It just seemed to make sense, and it really fit our farm. If it is a success, it is something we will do again next year."

O'Leary said that McCain Foods will continue to study the project and if yield results continue to be positive, they anticipate that other growers will quickly adopt the practice on their own farms. For more information, visit The Bangor Daily News.

Potato Tampering Mystery Remains Unsolved

As the old saying goes, it's not adversity that defines a person or group but rather how they deal with it in moving forward. That's the perspective P.E.I.'s potato industry is taking after a nearly year-long food tampering mystery that has led to millions of dollars in upgrades, a $500,000 reward and ongoing criminal investigation.

While the investigation continues for RCMP, the deadline for the reward put together by the industry and supporters passed earlier this month. Greg Donald, general manager of the P.E.I. potato board, said farmers are holding out hope that some of the information received will lead to an eventual arrest. He added a $100,000 reward will still remain until Oct. 31.

RCMP began investigating incidents of sewing needles being found in potatoes sold in the Atlantic provinces, which were traced back to Linkletter Farms in Summerside, P.E.I.

The incident led to a voluntary recall by the farm and has had a ripple effect across P.E.I.'s billion-dollar industry.

Sgt. Leanne Butler said the RCMP have received a number of tips regarding the investigation and that police still have some members specifically assigned to the file.

"It's a file we're working on all the time. They're working on the tips and sometimes it takes a while to get through all that information," she said. "There are tips (from before the Aug. 15 deadline) we're still working from and some of that information may come out in the future that we're not releasing now."

In addition to the reward money the incident, which federal Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz described as a form of terrorism, has had other lasting emotional and financial effects on farmers.

Millions of public and private dollars have been pumped into nearly 50 Island farms to introduce state-of-the-art foreign material detection devices and surveillance systems.

As well, farms have been working with RCMP in a "neighbourhood watch" style program, which encourages neighbours to call officers if they suspect anyone suspicious around potato fields.

Donald said those efforts have been crucial in the industry's focus on moving forward and keeping P.E.I.'s strong brand of potatoes alive.

"Our industry hasn't focused on the belly aching, financial or emotional challenges," said Donald. "Instead food safety has continued to be the highest priority. That's what we've focused on.

"It's brought many folks together and in support of the industry and that's a great feeling... (farmers are) very resilient and adaptable and rather than throwing our arms in the air, everyone has put their shoulder into it with the goal of coming out ahead." To learn more, visit The Guardian.

World Potato Congress in Yanqing, Beijing, China
World Potato Congress in Yanqing, Beijing, China.

Industry Leaders Honoured at WPC

The official closing ceremonies of the 9th World Potato Congress in Yanqing, Beijing, China, on July 29 were highlighted by the presentation of the triennial industry awards. The awards recognize outstanding personal contribution and leadership, related to development and progress of the global potato industry.

David Thompson, president and CEO of World Potato Congress Inc., and John MacQuarrie, WPC vice-president and awards committee interim chair, handed out the awards. Five individuals were presented with symbolic plaques to commemorate the occasion.

The 2015 award recipients are Kevin Clayton-Green, Tasmania, Australia; Neil C. Gudmestad, United States; Kees van Arendonk, the Netherlands; Albert T. Wada, United States; and Yili Chen, China. To learn more, visit Fresh Plaza.

August 6, 2015

PEI Potato Farmers to Host Potato Social on Aug. 9

PEI Potato Farmers to Host Potato Social on Aug. 9

As a way to thank fellow Islanders and potato-loving visitors for their support in the past year, the potato growers of Prince Edward Island are hosting the first ever Prince Edward Island Potato Social on Sunday, Aug. 9, 2015. The PEI Potato Social will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at Monaghan Farms at 2302 Route 2 in Norboro (near Kensington).

Central to the event will be a free barbecue lunch, which will include hamburgers, hot dogs, french fries, baked potatoes, and other treats. In order to ensure sufficient food is prepared, those planning to attend are asked to register for free tickets to the event at Due to the number of people expected to attend, tickets reserved in advance will be necessary in order to be served food at the PEI Potato Social.

Additional features of the PEI Potato Social will include farm equipment displays, live entertainment, and activities for children, including making Mr. Potato Heads from real potatoes, photo booths, and a bouncy castle. This is a family-friendly event and people of all ages are invited to attend. The main objective of the event is to allow Island potato farmers and members of the public to chat informally, talk about farming, and enjoy the day.

Alex Docherty, chairman of the PEI Potato Board, notes that “we had some growers that approached us about finding a way to thank our local community for their ongoing support, particularly after the past year. We are excited about hosting a big party that celebrates Prince Edward Island potatoes and allows Islanders and visitors alike to meet the folks who grow their potatoes!”

Derrick Curley of Monaghan Farms adds that “we are happy to host the first PEI Potato Social. We think that it’s a great opportunity to show members of the public how we grow potatoes as well as thanking them for their support of our industry.” To register for free tickets to the PEI Potato Social, visit

Project Aims to Rid Potato Sector of Blackleg Disease

The bacterial disease blackleg has proven to be a tough one to control, but it is hoped a £300,000 joint AHDB Potatoes and Scottish Government (SASA) research project, now in its final year, will come up with some of the answers.

According to Gerry Saddler of SASA, “Blackleg is a problem all over northern Europe and it is by far the biggest reason for the downgrading and rejection of seed in this country. Post-harvest surveys revealed that 100 per cent of crops tested were infected with Pectobacterium atrosepticum, the blackleg pathogen.”

“We still don’t have all the answers and there is much ‘number-crunching’ still to do, but what is becoming clear from our research is that there is no ‘silver bullet’ and the blackleg problem needs to be tackled from several angles.” For more information, visit The Press and Journal.

Beijing World Potato Conference Highlights Research and Development

Research and development was at the top of the agenda at the ninth World Potato Conference in Yanqing, Beijing. The three-day event ran alongside the China International Potato Exposition and is the largest global potato conference in terms of scale and content.

“We will take advantage of the conference and constantly support the scientific research and industry development of potatoes, and improve research and development in that area in Yanqing,” said Lin Keqing, vice-mayor of Beijing.

The conference saw the establishment of the China branch of the International Potato Center, China’s first international agricultural research institution. Since 1978, China — the largest potato production and consumption country in the world — has cooperated with the IPC to reduce poverty and drive rural growth.

In other developments, Yanqing county plans to deepen its cooperation with the city of Zhangjiakou by jointly establishing a high-tech scientific park for potato research.

A total of more than 3,000 experts from the world of academia, industry and governments from 37 countries attended the conference.

“China’s potato yield has increased from approximately 12 tons per hectare 40 years ago to 16 tons per hectare now, and the planting area has grown from two million hectares to over five million hectares during the same period,” said Barbara Wells, director of the International Potato Center. “I believe that with the Chinese people’s dream for a better life, a cleaner environment, more nutritious food and better health, the market demand for potatoes and sweet potatoes will continue to grow at a rapid pace.” For more information, visit China Daily.

Potatoes New Zealand Says Potato Psyllid Under Control

New Zealand potato growers are successfully dealing with the pest that’s been their biggest headache in recent years, an industry group says.

The tomato-potato psyllid, discovered in New Zealand in 2006, spreads a bacterium that stunts the growth of potato plants and causes a disease known as zebra chip in the tubers. It also damages tomato and related crops.

Potatoes New Zealand chief executive Champak Mehta said the industry has the psyllid well under control thanks to the knowledge gained through research. “We understand the psyllid lifecycle, we understand how to keep it within constraints that are manageable,” says Mehta.

The pest could be effectively controlled by applying chemicals in the right order and at the right time in its lifecycle.

“Also by doing that, we’ve been able to reduce the total amount of chemicals used on our crops over the growing season,” he said. To read more, visit Radio New Zealand.

July 23, 2015

Ottawa Invests to Boost Canadian Potato Exports
Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announcing $1.4 million for a national research project to help boost Canadian potato exports at a news conference in Fredericton, N.B. on July 14.

Ottawa Invests to Boost Canadian Potato Exports

The federal government is investing in research to help promote Canadian potatoes on a global scale.

On July 14, Agriculture Minister Gerry Ritz announced an investment of up to $1.4 million for Potatoes New Brunswick to lead a national research effort to help improve potato yields and the export competitiveness of Canadian french fries.

This investment will enable Potatoes New Brunswick to work with other industry partners, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists and universities to identify factors that limit potato yields. On-farm experiments will help overcome these limitations and recommend new tools and technologies to potato farmers across the country.

”Potatoes are a staple on family kitchen tables across Canada and around the world, and are a key driver of our economic growth,” Ritz said in a release. “This research partnership will build future growth by giving processors access to more of the quality Canadian potatoes that give their fries a world-class reputation.”

Potatoes New Brunswick will work with a number of key national partners, including the Prince Edward Island Potato Board, McCain Foods, the Manitoba Horticulture Productivity Enhancement Centre, Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, the University of Manitoba and the Institut National de la Recherche Scientifique in Quebec City.

”The stakes for processing potatoes in Canada have never been higher,” said Shawn Paget, chair of Potatoes New Brunswick. “This funding will allow Canadian potato producers to expedite the process and introduce new technology and best management practices to secure and develop export markets. A national approach allows our industry to pool resources and make a concentrated effort to improve yields, secure grower profitability and increase competitiveness.”

Canadian potatoes account for more than 30 per cent of vegetables produced in the country. The french fry sector buys nearly half of all Canadian potato production, generating more than $700 million in export sales annually. To learn more, visit the Government of Canada website.

North American Potato Acreage Up in 2015

North American growers planted almost 12,000 more acres to potatoes this year than they did in 2014. According to the North American Potato Market News, the 2015 potato area is just over 1.4 million acres, a 0.8 increase from last year.

Canadian growers added 1,465 acres to their planted area, in addition to the 10,500-acre increase reported in the United States, the NAPMN reports. According to Statistic Canada’s production estimates for 2015 released July 17, the total potato acreage in Canada is 349,005 acres, a 0.4 increase from 2014. This year’s extra acreage appears to be targeted for processing use. For more information, visit Statistics Canada.

Pacific Northwest Growers Nervous about Hot, Dry Conditions

Fresh-market potato growers in Washington and Oregon may not know what their 2015-16 crop will look like until they start harvesting, which should be a week or two earlier than usual, with start dates ranging from mid-July for some growers to after Labor Day for others.

However, dry conditions and unusually warm — or downright hot — weather have many producers concerned. Eastern Washington has been especially hard hit.

Larry Sieg, Washington sales and general manager for Idaho Falls, Idaho-based Potandon Produce LLC, admits he’s nervous about the extended period with temperatures that topped the century mark. “That could hurt the crop,” he says. “It could radically change things.”

The first week of July temperatures were in the 80s in western Washington and in the 90s in growing areas in Oregon.

“For us to have this many 80-degree days in June in western Washington is very unusual,” says Myron Ayers, sales manager for Norm Nelson Inc. in Burlington, Wash.

He says it was too early to tell whether the heat will have an impact on yields, tonnage or packout.

In Klamath Falls, Ore., temperatures were hovering around the 100-degree mark in early July. “That’s pretty warm for us,” says Dan Chin, president of Wong Potatoes Inc.

Plants were starting to set in late June, and Chin says he did not believe they would be hurt too badly. “Our plants now are up and growing real hard,” says Chin, who expects to start digging potatoes right after Labor Day.

The hot weather was bad news for potatoes, says Chris Voigt, executive director of the Washington State Potato Commission, Moses Lake, but he expressed confidence that growers would be able to manage their crops successfully.

Hot weather is hard on the plants, Voigt says. “They really kind of shut down, so you’re not adding any yield to your potato plant during the day.”

Growers have to water to keep the soil cool, but that can create an environment that can lead to disease pressure. “You really have to be on your management game,” Voigt says. “Our growers are really good managers and know how to do that.”

Excessive heat can cause lower yields, misshapen tubers and defects like hollow heart if not managed properly, he adds.

Growers also are coping with dry conditions. “We were real weak on snowpack this past year,” Chin says.

In Washington, Voigt says, “the water supply is more than adequate” for the Columbia Basin, which gets water from British Columbia.

In the east, the Yakima Basin was “hurting,” he says, adding growers were getting only 40 per cent of their normal allocations. Acreage was reduced from 3,500 to 3,000 acres because of the drought. For more information, visit the Packer.

Peru to Host Word Potato Congress 2018
The announcement that Peru will host the 10th World Potato Congress in 2018 came during a celebration of Agriculture Research Day on July 15.

Peru to Host Word Potato Congress 2018

Peru will host the 10th World Potato Congress in 2018. Alberto Maurer, the head of Peru’s National Institute for Agricultural Innovation (INIA), accompanied by Barbara Wells, director general of the International Potato Center (CIP), and representatives of various other national and international institutions made the announcement during a celebration of Agricultural Research Day on July 15.

That triennial event is organized by the non-profit World Potato Congress Inc., which is dedicated to supporting the global growth and development of the potato. The designation of Peru as host country marks the first time that the congress will be held in Latin America.

The 9th WPC is about to take place in Beijing, China, on July 28 to 30. Previous congresses have been held in North America, Europe, South Africa and New Zealand. Wells will accompany Peruvian authorities in a ceremony at the Beijing WPC on July 29, when Peru will officially accept the honour of hosting the next Congress.

The 10th WPC is expected to attract more than 800 potato scientists and industry representatives from around the world. It will be held in the Peruvian city of Cusco, high in the Andes. The former capital of the Incan empire, Cusco lies in a region where people have been growing potatoes for thousands of years.

Peru’s designation as host was the result of a six-month nomination and lobbying process that included site evaluations by a team from WPC Inc. CIP played an important role in that effort as one of six institutions in a team that convinced the WPC board to choose Peru.

CIP researcher Miguel Ordinola, who represented CIP in that process, explained that Peru’s selling points included the fact that it lies within the potato’s center of origin and holds the world’s greatest potato biodiversity, with approximately 3,000 varieties.

“This is an opportunity for Peru to show its potato biodiversity to the world,” he said. “Those native potatoes hold solutions for many of the problems that potato farmers face around the world.”

Maurer observed that while Peru’s potato heritage played an important role in its proposal, WPC representatives were also interested in what Peru is doing with its potatoes today. They were impressed by the fact that Peru is Latin America’s top potato producer, and its promotion of native potatoes and potato products internationally.

“This is the result of a long process and very good team work,” Maurer said. He explained that the team that nominated Peru, and will help organize the event, includes representatives of CIP, INIA, the UN Food and Agriculture Organization, Peru’s Ministry of Agriculture and Irrigation and Ministry of Foreign Trade and Tourism, and its leading agronomy university: the Universidad Agraria.

On the last day of the 2018 Congress, delegates will be able to participate in field trips to INIA’s Andenes Experimental Station, where native potatoes are cultivated on Incan terraces, or the Potato Park, where six indigenous communities are working to preserve native potato biodiversity and cultural practices. The closing dinner and awards ceremony will be held at Cusco’s Coricancha: an Incan temple that Spanish authorities converted into a Catholic church during the colonial era.

“We think that this will be a great opportunity to show the world all that Peru has to offer,” said Maurer. “We’re going to start working now to ensure that this will be the best Congress in the event’s history.” To learn more, visit CIP.

Turning Waste Potatoes into Nutritious Puree

A project to turn “waste” spuds into a nutritious puree for sale to hospitals, nursing homes and retailers could earn about $26 million AUD for the South Australian potato industry. Potatoes South Australia (PSA) is working on the project with researchers from the University of Adelaide after receiving a $100,000 grant from the state government.

Between 20 and 30 per cent of the potato harvest in South Australia falls below supermarket standards for shape, size and appearance each year. PSA chief executive Robbie Davis says those potatoes could become a valuable asset for primary producers instead of being sold cheaply or fed to cattle.

”The outcome of the research project will be pureed potatoes. So a pure, nutritious premium product and we’re going to target two ends of the market — niche pediatric and niche geriatric segments,” Davies says.

The state grows on average 385,000 tonnes of potatoes, which contributes to $440 million to the state’s gross food revenue.

According to Davis, it’s estimated about 75,000 tonnes of potatoes are wasted each year, which is potentially worth about $26 million at the farm gate.

“We have a responsibility to do something about this enormous cost to the industry and the economy, particularly as the fresh sector is in decline and margins are tight,” she says. “This research will also reinforce the repositioning of the potato as a highly nutritious, affordable, versatile and desirable food source.”

The waste potatoes will be processed with skins on where possible to maintain optimum nutrient profile in the end product. To learn more, visit ABC News.

Australian Research Underscores Potato Knowledge Gap

It appears few people in Australia know which variety of potato they are putting on their plate, new research reveals. The country’s Potato Tracker project found that potatoes were the most popular item on consumers’ fruit and vegetable list, ahead of tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers and lettuce.

Despite this, there was a knowledge gap in people’s understanding of the food. AUSVEG spokesman Alexander Miller says growers and sellers needed to do more to help consumers tell their kennebecs from their kipflers.

“We found that 32 per cent of Australians when unprompted were unable to name a variety of potato and that 15 per cent of Australians when purchasing potatoes didn't know what they were buying,” he says.

Miller urged farmers and grocers to educate the public about what is available and how to cook it.

“By highlighting at retail what potatoes are out there, what an individual variety is and what its best uses are, we can really highlight to consumers what they want and what each potato can do,” he says. For more information, visit ABC News.

July 9, 2015

Reward Increased to $500,000 in Potato Tampering Investigation

Prince Edward Island's potato industry has increased the reward it is offering to $500,000 for information that leads to the arrest and conviction of whomever is responsible for inserting metal objects into potatoes. The new reward is available until Aug. 15, and tips received from Aug. 16 to Oct. 31 will be eligible for the previous reward amount of $100,000.

The federal government recently announced it will spend $1.5 million to help Prince Edward Island farmers to buy metal detection equipment to help find foreign objects in potatoes. The funding will be used to purchase and install detection equipment, while an extra $500,000 from the P.E.I. government is being used for on-site security assessments and training.

There have been several cases of metal objects being found in potatoes in Atlantic Canada. The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has been supporting an ongoing investigation by the RCMP.

Alex Docherty, chairman of the P.E.I. Potato Board, said the incidents are having a financial impact on the industry. "The scope of the investigation has widened in recent weeks, and recent incidents of food tampering involving Prince Edward Island potatoes have led our industry to increase the profile of this reward in order to maximize the chance that those responsible will be brought to justice," he said in a statement. For more information, visit the P.E.I. Potato Board.

TOMRA’s Odyssey steam peeler
TOMRA’s Odyssey steam peeler.

TOMRA Sorting Food to Exhibit at World Potato Congress

TOMRA Sorting Food will welcome two new Chinese customers into the fold and showcase its innovative peeling and sorting solutions at the 9th World Potato Congress.

Gansu Jindadi and Aviko-Snow Valley will sign new contracts with TOMRA on the first day of the show, which is being held at the Beijing Badaling International Conference and Exhibition Centre from July 28 to 30.

Both companies are purchasing a Genius sorter whilst Gansu Jindadi is also buying the latest addition to TOMRA's steam peeling portfolio, the Odyssey.

Visitors to the TOMRA booth can speak to the team about its range of steam peeling solutions that also include the Orbit and Eco peelers. The Odyssey's vessel is bottle-shaped to enable large volumes of fruit and vegetables to be peeled, making it a cost effective machine for seasonal processing companies and emerging markets.

In addition to its peeling solutions, TOMRA has a range of sorters for potato applications, including the Genius and Halo, both of which can be seen at the TOMRA booth during the event.

"China is the world's leading producer of potatoes making it an ideal location to show TOMRA's Halo and Genius sorters and discuss our peeling capabilities," says Steven Van Geel, the company's sales director, food, for China.

"Visitors will be able to hear about the impact Halo and Genius systems can have on production line efficiency. Their state-of-the-art inspection technologies offer unrivalled sorting performance, rejecting defective produce and a range of foreign material, to deliver a final product which meets exact food quality and safety standards," he adds.

"Our cutting edge innovations support customers from field to fork and make for a smart business investment, ensuring an efficient, smooth production line operation. Our wide range of machines also helps processors boost capacity and availability, while at the same time optimizing production flow and yield, minimizing downtime and labour costs."

TOMRA has a site and testing centre in Xiamen, China, which enables the company to show its sorting and peeling technology to customers in the Asian market. The centre supports the complete sales process, including the testing of sample materials provided by the customer. To learn more, visit TOMRA.

Image of a pollinator - honeybee

U.S. Potato Grower Transforms Land into Haven for Pollinators

The biggest potato grower in the United States has planted the largest Operation Pollinator establishment in the country.

R.D. Offutt Company produces more than 60,000 acres of potatoes annually. Its Minnesota farm group recently planted 600 acres with wildflower seeds, selected specifically to attract a variety of pollinators, including monarch butterflies and honeybees. Once grown, these wildflowers will provide nutritious forage, boost pollinator populations and increase biodiversity.

Operation Pollinator is a research-based program, developed by Syngenta more than 12 years ago. It uses regional wildflowers to create essential habitats and restore pollinators on commercial farmland and a variety of other landscapes, such as golf courses.

Operation Pollinator provides expertise and resources, ensuring pollinators thrive while sustaining, promoting and beautifying properties. Syngenta gets support from the nonprofit conservation organization Pheasants Forever and flower seed producer Applewood Seed Company for the wildflower seeds.

In addition to helping pollinators, the program benefits the environment, reducing soil erosion and helping protect valuable water resources. "Operation Pollinator is a perfect illustration of how agriculture and biodiversity can coexist," says Caydee Savinelli, pollinator and IPM stewardship lead for Syngenta.

Offutt's Operation Pollinator plots are "pivotal," established in the corners of its potato fields where pivot irrigation systems don't reach. "It was a natural fit and just made sense to turn buffer cropland into havens for pollinators," says Vince Restucci, director of Procurement and Business Technology for R.D. Offutt. "These habitats will not only help bees and other pollinators thrive, they'll also provide a protective environment for wildlife."

The size of the R.D. Offutt project is extraordinary, says Savinelli. "Frankly, even small areas less than an acre can make a difference. If more areas like these were used for Operation Pollinator plots, there would be additional forage and habitat for honey bees, native bees and other pollinators."

Loss of habitat and poor nutrition are critical factors that affect pollinator health. The White House's National Pollinator Health Strategy report, released in May, largely focuses efforts on increasing pollinator populations and improving pollinator habitat.

Managing habitats for bees and other pollinators contributes to Syngenta's The Good Growth Plan, launched in 2013. The company has made a public commitment to enhance biodiversity on more than 12 million acres of farmland around the world by 2020. For more information, visit Syngenta.

McCain Foods Upgrading Potato Processing Plant in Tasmania

McCain Foods will spend $10 million expanding its potato processing plant in Smithton in Tasmania. The company will upgrade its storage facility, which will hold up to 55,000 tonnes of potatoes for processing.

McCain agriculture director John Jackson says the upgrade would improve efficiency. "It's an opportunity to bring our storage in one place and gain some efficiencies in our operations by having all our potato storage at the plant, or pretty much 95 per cent of it," he says.

A new $1.6 million packing line will also be built.

"There'll be some new equipment to go in to gain some productivity," Jackson says. "By gaining some efficiencies and taking some costs out of our operation, it allows us to compete better and therefore hopefully drives some increased volume."

The investment comes six years after McCain closed its vegetable processing plant at Smithton, affecting 200 workers. Jackson says the company was confident that food manufacturing had a future in the region.

"Obviously we wouldn't be investing if we didn't think there's a future and, you know, we think there is a sound future going forward for manufacturing and food in Australia," he said.

Jackson says the expansion was likely to increase the plant's production, which should benefit local suppliers and create new jobs. "In Australia, if we can drive some efficiency and become more globally competitive then there's a real opportunity to drive volume," he says.

But Jackson notes there were still some challenges it needed to overcome. "Obviously we're on the other side of the world so our shipping costs are expensive," he says, adding that the costs involved in production, compliance, water, energy and labour are all high in Australia. To learn more, visit the Australian Broadcasting Corporation.

June 25, 2015

P.E.I.'s new potato bag. Photo: CBC News.

P.E.I. Potato Bags Get Makeover

Prince Edward Island potato bags are sporting a new look. The P.E.I Potato Board has spent the last couple of years researching and creating the new design with the help of a Toronto firm that specializes in packaging.

The new paper bag looks as if it's made of burlap with a logo at the centre with Prince Edward Island and a red map of the Island. The bag includes a recipe with a photo and a short history of Island potatoes.

The bags are now on store shelves at several large retailers in Ontario and the Maritimes.

Kendra Mills, the P.E.I.P.B.'s marketing director, says the goal is to convince more Island potato producers to go with the industry bags rather than their own individual brands.

"Packaging is arguably our biggest asset. And we don't have big budgets for commercials, so this is the one thing that every single consumer takes home with them," she says." Everybody knows of P.E.I. potatoes. This process is about making it easier to find and purchase and repurchase P.E.I. potatoes at a store."

The potato board says it has worked hard to keep costs down and, due to a change in paper costs, the new bags are actually cheaper than the current industry bag. For more information, visit CBC News.

Federal Government Invests In Potato Safety

The federal government is investing $1.5 million to help Prince Edward Island potato farmers buy metal detection equipment, a move aimed at supporting the P.E.I. potato industry in addressing recent challenges with tampered with potatoes.

Federal Fisheries Minister Gail Shea, MP for the Island riding of Egmont, made the funding announcement on Monday in Charlottetown.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada will work with the P.E.I. Potato Board to assist producers, packing sheds and processors to enhance their efforts to detect and remove foreign material from potatoes.

The funding will be used to help the Island's potato farmers to acquire and install equipment to detect and remove foreign material. An additional $500,000 from the P.E.I. government will be used for on-site security assessments and training.

"P.E.I.'s potato industry plays an important role in our Island's economy. Our government recognizes the financial burden on farmers, packers and the overall industry this unlawful activity has created and we are pleased to respond with significant financial assistance toward the purchase of metal detection equipment," said Shea. "

"We will continue to work closely with industry on strategies and initiatives to help potato producers and industry maintain consumer confidence."

Alex Docherty, the potato board chair, said, "The production of safe, high quality potatoes has always been our top priority, and our farms have a high level of enrolment in the CanadaGAP food safety program. The P.E.I. Potato Board is working with the Government of Canada and the Province of Prince Edward Island to ensure the right strategies and technology are in place to help our farmers address the challenge posed by the criminal act of food tampering."

Police investigations are underway in several Atlantic provinces following unsolved reports of tampered with potatoes. The P.E.I. Potato Board continues to offer a $100,000 for any information leading the arrest and conviction of the people responsible. To learn more, visit the Government of Canada website.

Potato Growers Reach $25 Million Antitrust Settlement

A U.S. potato growers' co-operative has agreed to pay $25 million to settle allegations that it violated antitrust law by acting as a cartel to raise prices.

Under the deal, which was granted preliminary approval by a federal judge on June 17, the United Potato Growers of America and affiliated companies and organizations must pay $19.5 million to grocers and $5.5 million to consumers.

It already appears, however, that the agreement won't put the issue to rest. UPGA officials say one of the major plaintiffs, Kansas-based Associated Whole Grocers, will likely press forward with its own lawsuit rather than participating in the settlement.

UPGA President and CEO Jerry Wright said the court is now establishing provisions under which other plaintiffs may opt out of the settlement. "It would be inaccurate to say the lawsuit is settled," he said. "It's a structured settlement with the named plaintiffs."

The defendants have also agreed to cease any attempt to manage potato acreage prior to planting for seven years.

In 2010, the co-operative and numerous growers were the target of a lawsuit by the Jamestown, N.Y., potato buyer Brigiotta's Farmland Produce and Garden Center for allegedly constraining potato production to artificially inflate prices. Associated Wholesale Grocers filed a similar suit in 2013.

UPGA was initially optimistic that its supply management strategy was protected by the Capper-Volstead Act, which provides farmers with some exemptions from antitrust law.

However, Chief U.S. District Judge Lynn Winmill dealt the cooperative's legal defense a big blow in 2011 by ruling that "acreage reductions, production restrictions, or collusive crop planning" weren't shielded under Capper-Volstead.

Since then, the co-operative and potato companies have turned over more than 3.6 million pages of documents that were reviewed by the plaintiffs and their economic experts, according to court documents filed with the settlement.

Settlement negotiations faltered in 2012 and 2013, but the discussions were renewed after the plaintiffs asked for their case to be certified as a class action last year, which would allow other affected parties to join the lawsuit.

Wright said the settlement, which should finalized by late this year, is not an admission of guilt by the defendants. "Despite negotiating a settlement, potato growers steadfastly maintain they did not participate in any illegal activity or wrong-doing," Wright explained, adding the settlement "clarifies for growers nationwide protected activities under the Capper-Volstead Act and ensures a path forward for UPGA and its constituent members."

Wright said the agreement doesn't limit other UPGA functions such as data gathering, disseminating information and making recommendations.

The potato co-operative's willingness to settle shows that it likely recognized the supply management strategy isn't legally defensible, noted Peter Carstensen, a law professor specializing in agricultural antitrust at the University of Wisconsin. "Private action to regulate output is inherently suspect," he said.

The production of other crops is legally managed through marketing orders overseen by USDA, but those are a "different animal" since a federal agency has the final say on supply restrictions, Carstensen said. "You have to have both authorization and oversight."

Rather than trying to directly restrict supplies, the agricultural industry would benefit from improved transparency about market conditions, Carstensen said. If growers knew more about the anticipated demands of processors and retailers, they could make self-interested decisions without collectively attempting to influence the market, he said. "That's the kind of information that is needed."

University of Idaho Extension economist Paul Patterson who has long studied the cost of producing potatoes in Idaho, believes acreage reductions noted by the plaintiffs were bound to occur regardless of UPGA's influence, following a string of bad years for potato prices.

"They're being blamed apparently for the entire price change, and I think that is not logical," Patterson said. "The whole allegation of price fixing doesn't seem to hold water under close examination because why would you set your price below your cost of production? It was below the cost of production in some of the years they're alleging price fixing took place."

Wright declined to discuss UPGA's plans to pay the settlement and costs associated with litigation but said the funding will ultimately come from potato growers and the potato industry. For more information, visit Capital Press.

June 11, 2015

Potato plant infected with late blight. Photo: Khalil Al-Mughrabi.

Soil Bacteria Could Protect Against Late Blight

A research scientist at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has discovered that naturally occurring bacteria found in some Saskatchewan and Alberta soils could offer protection against late blight disease in potatoes.

Sue Boyetchko and her team are taking that bacteria, multiplying them in a lab and applying the bacteria to potato plants as well as the tubers themselves. "What we are trying to do is develop this into a product so that farmers or home gardeners can apply it at the right place, at the right time in order to control this disease," she says.

Boyetchko says her team has had a 90 per cent success rate with controlling late blight both on potato plants while the potatoes are growing and also putting the bacteria on healthy, harvested potatoes to prevent the fungus from forming.

She says this discovery and further research could also help cut down on the use of fungicides to control late blight. "During an outbreak, under optimum conditions for the disease, 12-15 applications of a chemical fungicide [may be required] in one growing season," she says. "The idea is to have more of a green alternative, something that is safe."

Now on the third year of this research project, Boyetchko and her team are working on how to mass-produce the bacteria. She says it will still be a few years before the product could be commercially available and they are currently looking for investors and industry input. For more information visit CKOM.

AAFC research scientist Sheng Li studied how channels and gullies develop in potato fields in New Brunswick. All photos: AAFC.

Solutions Offered for Fixing Soil Erosion

Soil erosion is the leading cause of soil degradation in potato production in New Brunswick.

Even if this is the time of year when farmers discover erosion in their fields due to spring run-off, a study completed last year by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientist Li Sheng shows spring run-off is only part of the soil loss problem.

Due to the climate, rolling topography and coarse-textured soils, together with the intensive tillage associated with potato production, potato fields in New Brunswick are subject to severe water and tillage erosion.

"Water and tillage erosion work together to accelerate soil erosion and nutrient losses on agricultural land. The damage caused by water erosion is well known because the evidence of water erosion is easy to see, rills (very shallow channels) and gullies in the fields, for example," says Li.

"However, rarely do people know that tillage alone can create soil loss on some spots and in many cases is the major reason for eroded soil in the fields."

According to the study, tillage erosion is caused by the differences in the amount of soil being moved by tillage at different locations in the field. These differences are related to topography. Soil sediments move from fields to nearby waterways mainly through channelized flows.

Fortunately for potato growers, there are beneficial management practices available to protect soil. The study includes a number of suggestions for managing soil erosion, including:

  • Soil conservation practices such as conservation tillage, mulching, and soil conservation structures such as terraces and grassed waterways can help reduce water erosion.
  • Minimizing tillage passes and controlling the variations of tillage speed and depth can reduce tillage erosion.
  • An emphasis on landscape-based, integrated soil conservation in farm fields can make these remedial measures more effective. Soil conservation practices need to be applied or placed strategically and managed properly to maximize their effects. For example, grassed waterways should be placed along natural flow paths, and terrace systems should only be constructed on long slopes using well maintained grassed waterways as flow paths.

Potato field gully.

Snow melt erosion.

Grassed waterway.

Grass terracing.

To learn more, visit AAFC.

Idaho Growers Expect Bad Weed Year

Crop scientists expect severe weed pressure in Idaho this season, especially in potato fields, following a prolonged wet period throughout the state's southern and eastern regions.

"All of the rain we've had may have compromised some of our pre-emergence herbicides. That's the main thing I've noticed so far," said Jeff Miller, a crop scientist with Rupert, Idaho-based Miller Research.

Miller said he's also seen commercial fields with signs of herbicide damage in spud plants. He explains heavy moisture has carried some herbicides below germinating weed seeds but in contact with spud roots.

University of Idaho Extension weed specialist Pam Hutchinson said in early June that she expected weeds to begin emerging in the coming days. She also considers it likely that growers will encounter signs of herbicide damage — both from herbicides leaching into potato root zones or soil laden with pre-emergence herbicides splashing onto potato stems.

However, Hutchinson said growers shouldn't worry about herbicide damage, as a turn to warmer weather should enable plants to easily metabolize the chemicals without hurting yields. For more information visit Capital Press.

U.S. Potato Producers Eye Southeast Asia

Oregon potato-promoter Jim Cramer recently returned from what he called a "potato mission trip" to Vietnam. He and a handful of Pacific Northwest producer-packers and government officials attended a food trade show in Ho Chi Minh City in April.

They hired a local celebrity chef, Dieu Thao, to write a potato-based recipe book, and she prepared some of her dishes live for sampling at their booth. "In Asia, rice is king," Cramer said. "But they are familiar with potatoes."

As the Southeast Asian economy expands and young people's tastes become more global, the market for American products, like potatoes, has grown. But U.S. agricultural producers face unique logistical challenges in delivering those goods to consumers there, especially with demand growing so quickly.

Dwight Wilder, a senior representative of the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Ho Chi Minh City, said agriculture exports to Vietnam have grown every year but one since the U.S. and Vietnam normalized diplomatic relations in 1995. In 2014, they topped $2.3 billion, which was 100 times the $23 million in agricultural products the U.S. sent there in 1995.

Emerging Southeast Asian markets, including Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Indonesia, are more challenging than domestic or established foreign markets; basic processes and infrastructure that many producers take for granted elsewhere, just aren't there yet.

Barry Horowitz, an international trade and logistics consultant who works with the Port of Portland in Oregon, said producers need to have contacts on the ground whom they trust and can communicate with easily. Foreign markets like Vietnam are "out of your sight, but they cannot be out of your mind," he said.

It helps that local buyers and a growing group of logistics providers in Vietnam are enthusiastic about doing business with American producers.

Vietnam only produces small quantities of potatoes in its central highlands region.

Potatoes have been part of the diet there, but historically they were used primarily in soups, sometimes made into chips or fried.

As the population has become more cosmopolitan, tastes are changing, said Wilder. The median age in Vietnam is 29, and young adults have more disposable income. "They're young, they want to expand their horizons and they have a hunger for Western fare," Wilder said. "Potatoes are a part of that." To learn more, visit the Wall Street Journal.

Potato Corner french fries. Photo: Potato Corner USA.

Potato Corner Expanding Operations in Asia

Potato Corner, a premier vendor of flavoured french fries with hundreds of locations in operation worldwide, is expanding its operations in Asia. The Philippines-based company is planning to open 60 new stores in its home country as well as set up 10 new stores in Indonesia this year.

At present, there are over 550 Potato Corner stores globally. Of this total, 90 are located outside the Philippines in markets such as Indonesia, Australia, Indonesia, Panama, United Arab Emirates and the United States.

Aside from opening new stores, the retailer also plans to enter new markets amid inquiries from individuals who have tried Potato Corner's french fries during their stay in the Philippines.

"Many of the inquiries we received from overseas are from young individuals who want to become entrepreneurs and were our customers before," says Potato Corner CEO Jose Magsaysay Jr, adding there are ongoing talks with potential partners for Potato Corner in China, Singapore, Thailand, Mexico and Spain. For more information, visit the Philippine Star.

EFSA Restates Case Against Acrylamide

Following a comprehensive review, the European Food Safety Authority has published its scientific opinion on acrylamide in food.

Experts from EFSA's Panel on Contaminants in the Food Chain (CONTAM) have reconfirmed previous evaluations that acrylamide in food potentially increases the risk of developing cancer for consumers in all age groups. This conclusion has not changed since the draft opinion was made available for an open public consultation in July 2014.

Evidence from animal studies shows that acrylamide and its metabolite glycidamide are genotoxic and carcinogenic: they damage DNA and cause cancer. Evidence from human studies that dietary exposure to acrylamide causes cancer is currently limited and inconclusive.

Since acrylamide is present in a wide range of everyday foods, this health concern applies to all consumers but children are the most exposed age group on a body weight basis. The most important food groups contributing to acrylamide exposure are fried potato products, coffee, biscuits, crackers, crisp bread and soft bread.

CONTAM Panel Chair Diane Benford said: "The public consultation helped us to fine-tune the scientific opinion. In particular, we have further clarified our evaluation of studies on the effects of acrylamide in humans and our description of the main food sources of acrylamide for consumers. Also, recent studies that we became aware of during the public consultation phase have been integrated into the final scientific opinion."

Acrylamide is a chemical that naturally forms in starchy food products during everyday high-temperature cooking (frying, baking, roasting and also industrial processing, at +120 C and low moisture). The main chemical process that causes this is known as the Maillard Reaction; it is the same reaction that ‘browns' food and affects its taste.

Acrylamide forms from sugars and amino acids (mainly one called asparagine) that are naturally present in many foods. Acrylamide also has many non-food industrial uses. It is also present in tobacco smoke.

Following ingestion, acrylamide is absorbed from the gastrointestinal tract, distributed to all organs and extensively metabolized. Glycidamide is one of the main metabolites resulting from this process and the most likely cause of the gene mutations and tumours seen in animal studies.

Besides cancer, the panel also considered possible harmful effects of acrylamide on the nervous system, pre- and post-natal development and male reproduction. These effects were not considered to be a concern, based on current levels of dietary exposure.

Although not the focus of EFSA's risk assessment, the scientific opinion includes an overview of data and literature summarizing how the choice of ingredients, the storage method and the temperature at which food is cooked can influence the amount of acrylamide in different food types and therefore the level of dietary exposure.

EFSA's scientific advice will inform European Union and national decision makers within Europe when weighing up possible measures for further reducing consumer exposure to acrylamide in food. These may include, for example, advice on eating habits and home cooking, or controls on commercial food production; however, EFSA plays no direct role in deciding such measures. To learn more, visit the Ingredients Network.

May 28th, 2015

Global French Fry Trade Surges

image of delicious fries

The global french fry trade grew 12.5 per cent in the first quarter of 2015 compared to the same period a year earlier, according to the North American Potato Market News. It reports major exporters shipped 1.46 billion pounds of french fries and other frozen potato products to countries outside of their local trade zones during the January-March quarter. That's a 160 million pound increase from the first quarter of 2014.

The NAPMN says European Union exporters captured 93.3 per cent of this growth, and that the EU's share of the global french fry market has expanded from 21.8 per cent during the first quarter of 2002 to 51.8 per cent during the most recent quarter. Belgium has seen the largest growth, while the Netherlands, France, Germany and Poland have all also seen significant growth in export sales to countries outside the EU during the past 15 years, the NAPMN says.

French fry shipments from the United States, Argentina and New Zealand all fell short of year-earlier sales, the NAPMN says. The U.S. decline was offset by a 44.7 per cent increase in Canadian offshore exports. By shifting more of their business to Canada, North American fryers boosted offshore sales by five per cent in the first quarter of 2015.

The NAPMN notes this year's shift in french fry offshore business from the U.S. to Canada is driven by two factors:

  1. the West Coast labour dispute, which prompted fryers to cover more of their customers' needs from Canada
  2. the declining value of the Canadian dollar, which makes it more economical to produce french fries in Canada

More Potato Tampering Cases Reported in Atlantic Canada

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency is advising the public of a possible food tampering situation involving potatoes following a number of consumer complaints this month where nails and needles appear to have been inserted into potatoes.

The CFIA reported last week that Loblaw Companies Limited and Strang's Produce Inc. are voluntarily recalling certain Farmer's Market and Strang's Produce brands of Russet potatoes from the marketplace in Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland and Labrador as a result of the possible food tampering.

According to the CFIA , there have been no confirmed illnesses or injuries associated with the consumption of these products. As a precaution, consumers are being urged to carefully check potatoes for foreign objects.

Sgt. Leanne Butler of Prince Edward Island RCMP says police investigations are now underway in P.E.I., Nova Scotia and New Brunswick. The May incidents follow several unsolved reports of tampered with potatoes in 2014, and Butler confirmed that police are trying to determine if a connection exists between the potatoes with metal objects found in them last fall and the ones discovered this month.

"We're investigating all avenues," she says, adding that police believe the latest potatoes discovered are from the 2014 stock and were probably stored in a warehouse since they were harvested, meaning any new potatoes likely weren't affected.

The CFIA says anyone finding potatoes with metal objects in them should hold onto them as well as any related packaging, and contact police. The RCMP are urging anyone with information that might help with the investigation to come forward.

The P.E.I. Potato Board continues to offer a $100,000 reward for any information leading to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible. To learn more, visit the CFIA website.

Lower Employment Costs for Maine Potato Growers

Maine potato industry officials say a new seasonal designation rendered by the state's Unemployment Insurance Commission is going to help lower costs for growers who hire seasonal help during harvest time.

On April 30, the commission granted a request by the Maine Potato Board to designate Aug. 1 through Nov. 15 each year as the potato harvesting season.

Jeannie Tapley, office manager for the Maine Potato Board, says the news was very important to growers who hire seasonal workers and want to keep their unemployment insurance rates down.

"Every time a grower hires a worker for the harvest and then lays them off three or four weeks later, the rate goes up," she says. "And it gets worse if they keep doing it. But potato growers need seasonal workers during the harvest."

Estimates provided by the Maine Potato Board suggest that approximately 200 temporary employees are hired by the potato industry during its planting period, and 1,600 to 2,000 temporary employees are required during the harvest.

Tapley says she was surprised to learn that the industry had never applied for the seasonal designation before, since it is already in place in the state for the harvesting of apples and blueberries and the packaging and processing of applesauce, beans, beets, carrots and 13 other crops.

Potato harvesting operations occur annually, take place during a period of less than 26 weeks, and require the hiring of a substantial number of temporary employees, the commission noted. The panel members determined that the industry's potato harvesting activities met the criteria for seasonality and that a seasonal designation for harvesting would be of "significant value" to the industry. No estimate was given for that value.

Since potato farmers will be able to declare the wages paid during harvesting as seasonal, this means that the employers cannot be charged for unemployment benefits outside of the seasonal period, says Julie Rabinowitz, director of communications and operations for the Maine Department of Labor. That would help to keep farmers' unemployment rates lower, she says.

"As economies change and with the advancement of technology, our regulations must be responsive to the evolving needs of Maine's industries," Gov. Paul LePage said in a statement praising the decision. "My administration encourages members of industry to reach out and let us know how government can be responsive to their needs to promote the best economic environment and protections for Maine businesses and workers."

Maine's Unemployment Insurance Commission is a three-person administrative board that handles appeals for unemployment insurance claims. For more information, visit Bangor Daily News.

Packaging Equipment Manufacturer Purchased

Duravant, a global engineered equipment manufacturer serving the food processing, packaging and material handling sectors, announced May 28 it had purchased Hamer LLC, the Plymouth, Minn.- based manufacturer of packaging equipment for a variety food products, including potatoes.

Duravant acquired Hamer, which specializes in automated bagging systems, fillers, sealers and robotic palletizers, from Hanover Partners and Tuckerman Capital. The purchase is aimed at expanding Duravant's packaging platform and strengthening its engineering, design and service expertise in bag management system solutions.

According to Duravant, Hamer's innovative, high quality and value-added packaging solutions include equipment for dosing, filling, bag closing, form fill seal automation, palletizing and fully automatic turnkey bagging systems.

"With a commitment to fast manufacture, innovative value-add designs and stringent quality assurance, Hamer has been a trusted brand for nearly 90 years," a Duravant press release states. "And, with a highly trained team of technical support professionals, Hamer is well-known for developing long-standing relationships with their customers by providing unparalleled aftermarket service and support."

Duravant says Hamer represents a strategic acquisition that strengthens the company's consistent pursuit of operational excellence, commitment to innovation through new product development and intense focus on growth by providing exceptional service.

"We are excited to welcome the exceptional Hamer team to the Duravant family of operating companies," says Mike Kachmer, CEO of Duravant. "With Hamer in our portfolio we are able to provide greater service capabilities to our core markets while gaining greater depth into Hamer's end markets which include agriculture, lawn and garden, industrial dry solids, and packaged ice."

Hammer President Dan Brown will continue to lead the Hamer organization. "Hamer consistently strives to exceed our customers' expectations, and with our Duravant partnership, [we are] now well-positioned to further enhance our product and service offerings," says Brown.

May 14th, 2015

Plots at AAFC
Plots at AAFC Potato Research Centre in Fredericton, N.B. receiving compost. Photo: AAFC.

Compost Study Underway in New Brunswick

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has joined forces with McCain Foods Canada and New Brunswick's potato growers in a major project to improve potato yields in the province by improving soil health.

According to AAFC, potato yields in New Brunswick have been lagging behind other North American potato production regions, and it's believed one of the culprits may be declining soil health. AAFC and industry are collaborating in research to increase potato productivity in the province and across Atlantic Canada by improving soil health through compost application.

Compost returns stable organic matter to the soil and can help retain nutrients, improve soil structure and water holding capacity, and reduce soil compaction caused by farm equipment.

Compost products vary widely depending on their feedstocks (animal manures, wood waste or bedding materials) and the composting process, and how that affects potato growth is not known. Because of the inherent variability of compost products, researchers aim to identify which kinds provide the most beneficial effects on processing potato production

The new research project has two components. The first includes large-scale application of compost on grower fields. The effects of this compost on potato yield and soil health will be evaluated over several years. The second component is evaluating a series of compost products in experimental plots at the AAFC Potato Research Centre in Fredericton, N.B.

"With these experiments, we are looking at how compost application affects potato productivity and soil quality as a way of overcoming limitations to yield due to degraded soils," says AAFC researcher Bernie Zebarth. "By checking diverse compost products and resulting potato yields, we will be able to tell which compost products are best suited for overcoming limitations to potato productivity."

Within three years, scientists expect to have results on:

  • What kind of compost is best suited for use in potato production
  • How this compost can affect potato yield and processing quality
  • How this compost can improve soil health and suppress soil-borne diseases
  • How this compost affects nutrient availability
  • The economic feasibility of using compost in processing potato production

AAFC, which is joining other organizations worldwide to celebrate the International Year of Soils 2015, believes the results of this research will have applicability across Atlantic Canada, primarily potato production areas in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island. Compost could be used in other high-value crops as well throughout the region. To learn more, visit AAFC.

Processing Potato Deals Reached in Manitoba, P.E.I., New Brunswick

Manitoba's potato producers have struck a deal with french fry producers. According to Dan Sawatzky, manager of Keystone Potato Growers Association, growers voted May 2 to accept the agreement with processors that will see increases in both price and production volumes.

Manitoba farmers grow processing potatoes for McCain Foods plants in Carberry and Portage la Prairie, a Simplot plant in Portage la Prairie, and a Cavendish Farms plant in Jamestown, North Dakota.

The new contract includes a price increase of approximately 3.5 per cent this year compared to 2014. The volume of contracted potatoes for McCain and Simplot is going up about 18 per cent, while the volume for Cavendish Farms will rise by approximately 60 per cent.

According to Sawatzky, this year's increases are largely due to the currency exchange rate resulting from the low Canadian dollar, which has contributed to a higher cost of production for potato growers facing rising crop input and capital costs.

In Prince Edward Island, contract talks between potato growers and processors were completed in April. According to the Prince Edward Island Potato Board, growers will receive a price increase over 2014 of approximately three per cent, which will help address the increasing costs of potato production. The board also reports indications are that Island processors signed individual growers up at similar volumes as last year.

In New Brunswick, growers voted April 30 to accept a deal with McCain Foods that includes an approximately three per cent price increase this year over 2014. According to Potatoes New Brunswick, the volume of contracted potatoes for the french fry processor is also up by approximately five per cent in 2015.

Deadline for Reward in Potato Tampering Case Extended

The Prince Edward Island Potato Board has extended the deadline for the $100,000 reward being offered in the Island's potato tampering investigation to Oct. 31.

According to the board, no arrests have been made in the case that involves the deliberate insertion of sewing needles into potatoes. The reward money is being offered for information leading to the arrest and conviction of the people responsible.

Anyone who can assist with the investigation is urged to contact the Prince Edward Island RCMP at 902 436 9300. Information can also be provided anonymously to Crime Stoppers.

Potato bruise comparison
An Innate Russet Burbank next to a conventional Russett Burbank 30 minutes after being peeled. Photo: J.R. Simplot Company.

GM Potato Moves Forward in Approval Process

The United States Department of Agriculture has moved another variety of genetically modified potatoes developed by J.R. Simplot Company forward in its approval process. The potato, a Russet Burbank variety, is genetically modified for late blight resistance, low acrylamide, reduced black spot bruising, and lowered reducing sugars.

USDA's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) found that the product is unlikely to pose a plant pest risk to agricultural crops and other plants and plant products.

A draft environmental assessment (EA) and preliminary plant pest risk assessment (PPRA) of the product was recently announced in the U.S. government's Federal Register and is open to public comment. The draft PPRA was conducted to determine whether the potatoes are likely to pose a plant pest risk, and the draft EA evaluates the effects on the quality of the human environment that may result from deregulation.

APHIS approved several other Simplot potato varieties, also known as "Innate" potatoes, in November last year. In addition, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration evaluated several of Simplot's Innate potato varieties and concluded they are as safe and nutritious as conventional counterparts. For more information, visit Agri-Pulse.

Fewer Potato Acres in Europe

The number of potato acres being planted in northwestern Europe this year is expected to drop from 2014. The North-Western European Potato Growers, an association of producers in Great Britain, Belgium, the Netherlands, France and Germany, estimates a 2.5 per cent reduction in potato acreage in the region to 530,000 acres.

NEPG says that in each of its member countries, there is a movement away from growing traditional potato varieties to breeding specific lines for processing that offer a potentially higher return. For more information, visit NEPG.

Potato Chip Maker Offering Personalized Packaging

Lay's potato chips, one of the marquee brands from PepsiCo's Frito-Lay division, kicked off its "Lay's Summer Days" campaign on May 12. The campaign, which goes to July 4, encourages customers to create custom digital bags of Lay's potato chips featuring photos of their favourite summer moments.

Thousands of picture-offering customers will receive a real-life customized bag of Lay's Classic potato chips featuring their photo — offering consumers personalized packaging for the first time in the brand's history.

An interactive tool called Lay's Summer Bag Creator at enables users to upload a summer photo, caption it and receive a digital version of a Lay's potato chips bag featuring their photo to share with family and friends on social media. The first 10,000 approved submissions also will be created as real-life bags of Lay's potato chips and sent to consumers to enjoy this summer.

"Summer is all about creating memories that last a lifetime, and we are always excited to play a role in those experiences," says Tina Mahal, senior director of marketing, Frito-Lay North America. "The Lay's Summer Days promotion is a way for us to celebrate our fans and the season by personalizing their connection with the brand in fun, unique way." To learn more, visit

April 30th, 2015

Drone image


Idaho State University (ISU) has obtained a sizable grant to research how to diagnose crop diseases in potatoes and sugar beets using drones. The university is collaborating with J.R. Simplot Co. on the research, which uses advanced sensors mounted on drones to diagnose the specific causes of crop problems.

The Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission, which seeks to commercialize technology developed through partnerships between the state’s private industry and public universities, awarded Donna Delparte, an assistant professor of geosciences at ISU, a US$179,000 grant toward the project.

Delparte and her students — with Simplot providing soil analysis, crop expertise and serving as a liaison with participating growers — will soon begin imaging of more than a half dozen potato and sugar beet fields in Idaho. The project has already received Federal Aviation Administration authorization.

“There is potential for Simplot, working with the university, to take the methods and procedures we’re learning and to be able to commercialize them,” Delparte says. “That would have a direct benefit to the state.”

Simplot technology director Allan Fetters says the project puts ISU and his company at “the forefront of this transformative movement in history to conduct research using unmanned aerial vehicle sensors to improve agricultural field productivity and grow profitability.”

The partners will seek to better understand optimal drone platform and sensor configurations to best assess crop stresses, including diseases, irrigation stress, soil deficiencies and weed and pest pressure. They also hope to work with Empire Unmanned, an Idaho company that has secured the first FAA exemption to fly drones for agriculture commercially.

Delparte started the project last year with $150,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which carries over into this season.

Based on last season’s work, Delparte found different crop diseases thrive in dips and hills within fields, and hills supported thinner biomass. Her imaging equipment in 2014 utilized five spectral bands and effectively identified crop stress, but not specific threats.

With the IGEM funding, she’s purchased a top-line camera and intends to test sick plants from the project’s fields to determine the “spectral signature” of specific diseases such as potato virus Y and rhizoctonia. A light detection and ranging camera will also be mounted to record three-dimensional field images.

Delparte said last year’s images showed small pockets of diseased plants in the early season that developed into large patches of disease by late season. This season, she’ll enable her growers to access data quickly on hand-held devices to respond to immediate problems.

ISU’s College of Technology has built Delparte a large multi-copter drone capable of lifting the heavy equipment, and has integrated the sensors into the design. The university may also create a new drone technology major.

“Everything we’re teaching is in one of these drones, so it just matches perfect with our program,” says Garen Call, an instructor with ISU’s robotics and communications program. For more information, visit Capital Press.


The first potato varieties now available to Canadian farmers under changes to Canada’s Plant Breeders’ Rights (PBR) legislation have been announced. The April issue of the Plant Breeders’ Rights Office Plant Varieties Journal, published on the Canadian Food Inspection Agency website, cites the first new crop varieties that have been granted rights under the changes included in the Canadian Agriculture Growth Act, which was passed into law on Feb. 27.

Six potato varieties granted rights after Feb. 27 are included on the list. Red Chinook is a potato variety developed in the Netherlands, while Blue Belle, Dinky, Gwenne, Loane and Malou were all developed in France.

The legislative changes in the Agriculture Growth Act brings Canada’s PBR system into alignment with the 1991 Convention of the International Union for the Protection of New Plant Varieties. The changes are aimed at offering opportunities for increased investment and delivery of new varieties both from plant breeders operating in and outside of Canada and ensuring that farmers have access to new and improved varieties developed in Canada and internationally. To learn more, visit CFIA’s Plant Breeders’ Rights Office.


IBM has announced a services agreement with McCain Foods Limited to create a new technology services delivery facility at McCain’s Florenceville-Bristol, New Brunswick location.

Through the initiative aimed at driving the creation of high-value, highly-skilled IT jobs in the region, IBM will provide McCain Foods’ global operations with system infrastructure support, resiliency, security and mobility services. The facility will also provide security compliance and tools services to new and existing IBM clients.

“This initiative will enhance the efficiency and effectiveness of information technology and services for McCain while bringing a second major global company to Florenceville-Bristol, serving clients beyond McCain,” says Kevin Perkins, chief information officer, global information services, for McCain Foods Ltd. “We are confident it will be good for our business, our employees and our community.”

As part of the agreement, IBM and McCain also agreed to collaborate on local analytics and security skills development — skills which are in high demand by today’s employers. IBM committed to provide $5 million to develop curriculum and programs, provide students with access to IBM expertise and technologies and seed innovative applied research in security intelligence, building off a previous investment in New Brunswick-based security intelligence software provider Q1 Labs, which IBM acquired in 2011.

A recent study by Forrester Research and IBM shows global IT decision makers and business leaders have acquired security technology, but lack the skills needed to apply these technologies and protect their businesses. There is a shortage of people to design secure systems, and to create tools to prevent, detect, or mitigate system failures and malicious acts.

“Our marketplace is rapidly changing and Canadian businesses must continually transform as they adopt emerging technologies in cloud, big data, security, mobile and social computing,” says David Drury, general manager of IBM Global Technology Services for Canada.

“This initiative with McCain demonstrates leadership in sharing expertise to spur regional economic growth, seed high-value job skills, and drive competitiveness to take advantage of that continual transformation, and innovate for the future.” For more information, visit IBM.

Sweet Potatoes


A team of researchers with members from Belgium, China, Peru and the U.S. has found evidence of bacterial DNA in the genome of the cultivated sweet potato. In their paper published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the team describes their findings as an example of a naturally occurring transgenic food crop.

In modern times, scientists have created what are known as genetically modified organisms, where plants or animals are modified to suit the particular needs of people in a certain region — to allow corn to grow in a dry climate for example. One common method of creating GMOs is to use bacteria that have been found able to modify the genes of a host as a carrier agent.

In some parts of the world, GMOs have been met with suspicion with some countries banning them outright. Now, in this new effort, the researchers have found an example of a natural GMO that people have been eating for thousands of years: the sweet potato.

Sweet potatoes have been growing wild in South America for thousands of years — over time, they were cultivated by people, and have since become a popular food in many parts of the world. But now it appears that a type of bacteria similar to the kind used by modern scientists to create many GMOs found its way naturally to cultivated sweet potatoes many generations ago and modified its DNA.

To make this discovery, the researchers collected 291 sweet potato samples from cultivated sources across the globe along with nine wild sources and subjected them all to DNA analysis. They found that all of the cultivated potatoes carried at least two stretches of Agrobacterium DNA, while the wild species carried one. Their findings suggest the transfer of DNA to the potatoes occurred a long time ago, before they were carried to and grown in other parts of the world.

The researchers suggest their findings could have an impact on the perception of GMOs by some who oppose their creation on the grounds that it is not safe. They claim that humans eating food that was genetically modified naturally, over thousands of years, proves that such foods are not harmful. To learn more, visit


Switzerland’s Federal Office for the Environment says scientists can carry out crop trials involving genetically modified potatoes that are resistant to blight, one of the crop’s main threats.

Teams from the Agroscope research centre have been given the go-ahead to start planting the GM potatoes at its site at Reckenholz, near Zurich. The Swiss scientists aim to develop potatoes that are resistant to blight, which is responsible for major crop losses worldwide every year. Dutch researchers have already successfully tested similar potatoes.

The experiments are expected to run until 2019 at the latest. This year’s field trials will take place in a 10 by 20 metre area, which will be considerably extended next year. Because GM crops are controversial in Switzerland, the test field will be protected by security guards, fences and cameras.

In 2008, activists destroyed a GM wheat crop being tested at the Zurich site. When Agroscope filed a request to trial the GM potatoes last November, Greenpeace publicly criticized the project, saying research should favour more natural farming methods than those dependent on pesticides or on genetically modified systems.

The use of GM organisms in plants and animals in Swiss agriculture is currently prohibited by a moratorium that runs until the end of 2017. Most European Union member states are free of GM organisms and several have banned them. For more information, visit

Saltwater Potatoes
"Salt" potatoes being sorted prior to packaging at the Salty Potato Farm in the Netherlands. Photo:


A small field on an island off the Netherlands' northern coast promises one answer to the problem of how to feed the world's ever-growing population: potatoes and other crops that grow in saltwater.

Every day, swathes of farmland somewhere in the world become unusable because of salty soil, but farmers on windswept Texel are finding solutions using traditional methods.

The team headed by farmer Mark van Rijsselberghe has planted around 30 types of potato and their approach is simple: anything that dies in the saline environment is abandoned, and anything that lives "we try to follow up on," says Van Rijsselberghe. "It's faster."

The experiments do not just target potatoes, but also look at how other crops grow in saltwater, including carrots, strawberries, onions and lettuce. The plants are irrigated using pumps that manage water down to the drop, so the plant and soil salinity can be accurately measured and the effect of "sweet" rainwater taken into account.

The potatoes grown on Texel taste sweeter than those grown on normal land, because the plant produces more sugars to compensate for the salty environment. The salt absorbed by the plant stays in the leaves, not in the flesh.

Van Rijsselberghe, 60, started the "Salty Potato Farm" around 10 years ago in the hope of helping the world's malnourished. The team, supported by Amsterdam University, uses neither genetically modified organisms nor laboratories in their quest for food that grows in salty environments.

Plants whose ancestors grew near or on the sea, but have moved inland with human populations, are likely still to have the necessary genes. "It could be a hundred, it could be 1,000 years ago, they still are capable of coping with saline surroundings," says Van Rijsselberghe.

While today much research is focused on improving the yield of crops, the Dutch team has taken the opposite approach: trying to grow crops on land previously considered unusable.

The world loses around 2,000 hectares (just under 5,000 acres) of agricultural land a day to salt-induced degradation in 75 countries, caused by bad or absent irrigation, according to the UN's Institute for Water, Environment and Health. The problem today affects an area the size of France — about 62 million hectares or 20 percent of the world's irrigated lands, up from 45 million hectares in the early 1990s.

These "salt" potatoes could transform the lives of thousands of farmers in affected regions and, in the long term, those of around 250 million people who live on salt-afflicted soil. Countries ranging from Egypt to Bangladesh and India have already asked for advice on planting their own salt-proof crops. To learn more, visit


The Spanish potato industry has unveiled a promotional campaign aimed at putting a stop to declining potato consumption.

According to Jose Ramon Aguado, president of the Spanish Potato Forum, Spain’s potato producers, processors and distributors will launch a seven-month media campaign in May aimed at promoting consumption of new potatoes, emphasizing their flavour qualities as well as their nutrition value and other benefits.

Consumers in Spain are eating 35 per cent fewer potatoes than they were 25 years ago.

Spaniards consumed 37 kilos per person per year in 1990, a figure that now stands at around 24 kilos per person per year, Aguado says.

The country’s potato producing area has also shrunk considerably, declining 30 per cent in the past decade. According to Aquado, Spain’s potato acreage in 2014 amounted to 75,775 hectares and produced 2.4 million tons of spuds, a figure that’s expected to decline this year to an estimated 1.9 million tons.

Aguado maintains many factors are contributing to the decline in potato consumption and production, such as rising prices, a lack of profitability for producers, and the fact product might not always have the best quality. For more information, visit Fresh Plaza.

April 15th, 2015


Idaho potato growers have struck a deal with processors accepting a slight decrease in payment but requiring processors to contract for at least 90 per cent of 2014 acreages with individual farms.

Dan Hargraves, executive director of Southern Idaho Potato Cooperative (SIPCO), says Lamb Weston growers have agreed to a one per cent reduction in contract prices, while McCain and Simplot growers will take a 1.5 percent decrease to "make up an inequity from the prior crop year."

Hargraves says SIPCO sought the acreage guarantee based on slower exports of frozen potato products during the West Coast port labour slowdown. "There were some reductions by all of the big three in Idaho — Lamb Weston, McCain and J.R. Simplot," he says, adding that many non-members took larger acreage cuts.

Growers approved the contract in mid-March, and processors are now taking it to fields for signing.

With the latest contract, Hargraves notes that prices are down four per cent over two years, or about US$120 per acre. Prices vary by region and variety, but Hargraves says Russet Burbanks will still fetch more than US$7 per hundredweight.

The contract also included new language pertaining to genetically modified organisms, mandating that seed and commercial growers dedicate separate equipment, farm land and storage to GMO potatoes, and that they avoid planting conventional potatoes in a field for at least eight years after raising GMOs.

Potato Growers of Washington reached an agreement with processors in November. Executive Director Dale Lathim says his growers accepted the price protection language, described as a "favoured nations clause," and were allowed to roll over last year's contract rates. If other growing areas agree to lower contracts, Washington's maximum reduction is capped at two per cent.

Lathim says Washington growers were also guaranteed 100 per cent of their 2014 acreages. "It's not something we have to look at often, but this was definitely a year we were concerned about that," he says.

University of Idaho Extension economist Paul Patterson estimated input costs were down by at least 1.5 percent last year, and he noted processors are under pressure to keep costs down from customers such as Walmart and McDonald's, which have recently raised employee wages.

Hargraves believes input costs for growers were actually up slightly last season, as growers were forced to add an unexpected late-season treatment for late blight. For more information, visit Capital Press.


Potato growers should reduce their potato planting areas to some degree in 2015, given the poor prices that have been available over the past two seasons, according to Teagasc, Ireland's agriculture and food development authority.

"Last year saw an oversupply of potatoes coming onto the market right across Europe, with prices falling accordingly," says Teagasc spokesperson Denis Griffin.

"We continue to see a decline in potato consumption here in Ireland, so growers should err on the side of caution as they prepare for this year's planting season. The reality is that potatoes remain a very expensive crop to grow."

Griffin also maintains Irish potato growers should start to look seriously at how they can diversify their businesses. "There is a growing demand for salad potatoes and, in this regard, Teagasc has just brought to market a new variety, called Imagine, which shows promise for the future. There is also significant potential to increase our seed potato acreage," he says.

"There is also significant scope for Irish growers to produce potatoes for the chipping market. Almost all this requirement is met by imports from Europe at the present time. Price will, obviously, determine the viability of this option. There is also a requirement to establish a chip processing factory in this country.

"The fundamental bottom line is that growing potatoes as a commodity crop is no longer a feasible business option in this country. Growers must develop a value added mentality," Griffin says. To learn more, visit AgriLand.



Almost 70 new varieties of potato and sweet potato will soon be available to Pacific Island countries and territories, to improve food security across the region.

The Fiji-based Secretariat of the Pacific Community's (SPC's) Centre for Pacific Crops and Trees (CePACT) has received 42 new potato varieties as tissue cultures that are sub-tropical, heat-tolerant and resistant to some potato viruses.

Potato is becoming one of the most consumed crops in the Pacific Islands region, with some countries and territories beginning to grow potatoes, while Fiji imports many potatoes every year.

The new potato varieties originate from Peru, while the sweet potato tissue cultures are also mainly from Peru but also from Argentina, Bolivia and Ecuador. Accessing new, adaptable and resilient hybrids will assist countries and territories with import substitution to improve food security.

"The centre also received tissue cultures of 27 advanced hybrid sweet potato varieties, all of which have orange and purple flesh that is high in nutrients to help improve diets in Pacific communities," said Valerie Tuia, SPC genetic resources co-ordinator.

"The fast-growing and early-maturing sweet potato varieties are an ideal crop in disaster rehabilitation efforts and food security programs, although we're currently preparing other varieties for anticipated distribution in the coming weeks to areas impacted by Cyclone Pam."

In Cook Islands, Niue and Samoa these orange and purple varieties are very popular for the tourist market and they will support smallholder farmers supplying this market.

A growing demand by Pacific countries and territories for disease-resistant and nutrient-rich crop diversity, that is suitable for a tropical climate, prompted CePACT to continue sourcing new, improved varieties from its partners in the Consultative Group of International Agriculture Research (CGIAR). The new crops were acquired from the Peru-based International Potato Center, one of CePACT's partner institutes in the CGIAR group.

The materials are part of the global gene pool of the multilateral system of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture, in collaboration with the Global Crop Diversity Trust. For more information, visit SPC.



Working together for sustainable potato cultivation: Simon Jensma, Technical Advisor at Bayer CropScience, provides tailored advice to a Dutch potato grower. Photo: Bayer CropScience AG.

Bayer CropScience and Farm Frites recently started a Food Chain Partnership initiative designed to implement sustainable agricultural practices in potato cultivation in the Netherlands and Belgium.

The goal of the partnership is to support a bottom-up approach with potato farmers addressing value-adding sustainable potato-growing practices at individual farm levels. This is intended to minimize the environmental impacts of agricultural production in order to keep potato farming attractive in the long term.

"Potato is a valuable crop for farmers in Western Europe and a key raw material for the potato processing industry, for example for flakes, mash and french fries," says Leon Boer, director of potato procurement of Farm Frites. "Therefore, the implementation of sustainable practices is a must for local farmers. With this collaboration we want to enable our contract growers to consistently meet our high-quality standards and stay competitive."

Within this initiative, Bayer CropScience will share its expertise in potato agronomy and sustainability measures. "Bayer CropScience's contribution to sustainable agriculture is at the core of our business supporting our customers with innovative solutions, proactive stewardship and partnerships," explains Silke Friebe, head of food chain management at Bayer CropScience.

"Our core competencies lie in developing and supplying integrated crop solutions that are locally adapted and tailored to the individual needs of our customers. The common goal is to help drive a sustainable productivity increase and to improve crop quality."

In a first step, a set of measures to improve sustainability in potato cultivation and the associated in-field activities have been jointly compiled and shared. This toolbox of available measures covers a broad range of topics: biodiversity, erosion, soil fertilization, stewardship, energy, product quality, pest and disease monitoring as well as advice on the efficient and safe use of crop protection products.

Five pilot farms, three in Belgium and two in the Netherlands, which supply their harvests to Farm Frites have been selected for the coming potato season. To encourage interaction and provide a platform for sharing experiences and knowledge among farmers Bayer and Farm Frites will organize a Tour de Farm, a set of open field days at the pilot farms, at the end of May. To learn more, visit Bayer CropScience.


University of Montana researchers say they have good news for endurance athletes hankering for a burger and fries after an intense workout: It's okay to dig in, as long as it's in moderation.

A new study, recently published by the International Journal of Sport Nutrition and Exercise Metabolism, found there was no significant difference in glycogen recovery when cyclists ate fast food after a workout versus when they ingested traditional sports supplements such as Gatorade, PowerBar and Clif products.

Brent Ruby, director of UM's Montana Center for Work Physiology and Exercise Metabolism, graduate student Michael Cramer, and a team of researchers in UM's Department of Health and Human Performance detailed these findings in a paper titled "Post-exercise Glycogen Recovery and Exercise Performance is Not Significantly Different Between Fast Food and Sport Supplements."

In the study, 11 male cyclists completed two experimental trials in randomized order. Each trial included a 90-minute glycogen-depletion ride followed by a four-hour recovery period. Immediately following each ride and again two hours later, researchers provided participants with either sports supplements or fast food, such as hamburgers, french fries and hash browns. Following a four-hour recovery period, participants completed a 12.4-mile (20-kilometer) time trial.

The UM researchers analyzed muscle biopsies and blood samples taken in between the two rides and found no differences in blood glucose and insulin responses. Rates of glycogen recovery from the feedings also were not different between the diets. Most importantly, there were no differences in time-trial performance between the two diets.

"Our results show that eating fast food — in the right amounts — can provide the same potential for muscle glycogen as sports nutrition products that usually cost more," Ruby says. "We had participants eating small servings of the fast-food products, not giant orders of burgers and fries. Moderation is the key to the results we got." For more information, visit the University of Montana.

April 2nd, 2015

4R Nutrient Stewardship In P.E.I.

Clyde Graham, acting president, Canadian Fertilizer Institute; Steve Watts, agronomist with Genesis Crop Systems inc.; and potato grower Jared Wright.

Among those at the 4R Nutrient Stewardship news conference in Charlottetown, P.E.I. on April 1: (left to right): Clyde Graham, acting president, Canadian Fertilizer Institute; Steve Watts, agronomist with Genesis Crop Systems inc.; and potato grower Jared Wright. Photo: Elizabeth Smith, CFI.

The results of 4R Nutrient Stewardship Demonstration Farm Trials in Prince Edward Island are proving that producers, consumers and the environment benefit when farmers adopt practices that ensure nutrients stay where they are placed.

In 2014, the second year of the field trials, 4R advocate and agronomist Steve Watts of Genesis Crop Systems Inc., expanded the demonstration plots from five to 13 farms while generating significant interest from agriculture, environment and community stakeholders.

A meeting was held in Charlottetown, P.E.I. on April 1, enabling members of the media along with farmers and other ag stakeholders to see for themselves what the 4R initiative is achieving. Detailed information about the program was provided along with a report on the 2014 farm trials summarizing results that supported the adoption of 4R Nutrient Stewardship principles. The findings included:

• 4R Nutrient Stewardship practices trended towards equal or better performance than conventional crop fertility practices

• 4R Nutrient Stewardship management indicated lower soil nitrate levels at eight of the 10 locations, representing reduced potential for nitrate movement to the environment

"Introducing subtle changes to the way a crop is fertilized can produce crops with at least as much economic value as the current level of management while lessening the potential environmental impact," said Watts at the event. For more information, visit the Canadian Fertilizer Institute.

Innate Receives FDA Safety Clearance

The J. R. Simplot Company has completed the food and feed safety consultation with the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) for its first generation of Innate potato varieties. The FDA concluded that the Innate potato is as safe and nutritious as conventional potatoes.

Simplot is working with growers and retailers to bring to the U.S. market several popular potato varieties with improved traits that benefit consumers, food producers, and growers. According to the company, Innate potatoes have fewer black spots from bruising, stay whiter longer when cut or peeled, and have lower levels of naturally-occurring asparagine, resulting in less acrylamide when cooked at high temperatures. Simplot says Innate potatoes are also less prone to pressure bruising during storage, resulting in less potato waste and potentially millions of dollars in savings to growers every year.

The FDA statement comes after the recent U. S. Department of Agriculture deregulation of Innate potatoes. The FDA’s safety consultation on Innate potatoes was voluntarily requested by Simplot as a further evaluation of the Innate technology which has been in development for more than a decade. These federal clearances involved years of technical review and a thorough public comment period that drew the support of 14 leading potato research universities in the U.S. and Europe.

"The Innate potato is the most promising advancement in the potato industry I’ve seen in my 30 years studying agriculture," says David Douches, a Michigan State University research scientist who has implemented field trials of Innate. "This potato delivers significant health and sustainability benefits, all by using the potato’s own DNA. Such advancements haven’t been possible using traditional breeding."

Simplot used the techniques of modern biotechnology to accelerate the traditional breeding process and introduce new traits by triggering the potato’s own RNA interference (RNAi) pathway. RNAi is a natural cellular process commonly used by plants and animals to modulate expression of certain genes, and has been used effectively in multiple commercial crops sold over the last decade. "Unlike traditional methods of breeding which introduce random mutations associated with dozens of genes, the method used to develop Innate potatoes is precise," says Douches.

Three Innate varieties are expected to be available in limited quantities beginning in 2015 in the fresh and fresh-cut markets. A second generation of Innate potatoes, currently under review by the USDA and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, will offer two additional improvements to the potato, including increased resistance to late blight disease and better storability.

"The potato is an important and nutritious food staple, but susceptible to damage when grown and stored," says Haven Baker, vice president and general manager of Simplot Plant Sciences. "Innate has the potential to reduce post-harvest food waste and help meet the demand for better, more sustainable crops in the years ahead." To learn more, visit J.R. Simplot Company.

New Defence Against Late Blight

Scientists from Wageningen University in the Netherlands and the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, England say they have identified a gene that enhances resistance against potato late blight from a South American wild relative of cultivated potatoes.

Vivianne Vleeshouwers, breeding research expert at Wageningen University, is one of the leading scientists in the team responsible for this breakthrough. "We identified a gene responsible for a totally new line of defence in wild relatives of potato. We hope that this will help us to tackle late blight," says Vleeshouwers.

Phytophthora infestans, the cause of late blight disease, is infamous for triggering the 1840’s Irish famine. This widespread pathogen is still a major threat to crops worldwide.

The international team of scientists searched the germplasm of wild members of the Solanum family (which includes potato), looking for genes that responded to elicitins, a conserved protein in the P. infestans pathogen that serves an important biological function.

"These proteins hardly change in time and during species diversification because their role is crucial and their composition has been optimized during earlier evolution," says Vleeshouwers. "Resistance enhanced by action against this type of pathogen proteins would make it less likely that the pathogen will evolve to overcome the resistance."

After a 10-year search, the scientists found one such gene: ELR, an elicitin resistance gene that encodes a receptor-like protein in Solanum microdontum. Plants contain many of these cell surface receptors that constitute the first line of immune defence, like an array of radar antennas, each one tuned to a different but conserved feature of the invading pathogens.

The simultaneous presence of ELR and elicitin triggers cell death at the site of infection, a powerful plant defence mechanism that restricts the progress of the pathogen. According to the researchers, transfer of the ELR gene into cultivated potato made it more resistant to several strains of blight, opening new strategies for breeding a broad and durable resistance in potato varieties, increasing food security and reducing the use of fungicides. For more information, visit Wageningen University.

New U.S. Product Prevents Sprouting In Storage

BioSafe Systems has introduced ARRET Sprout Treatment for the 2015 potato storage season, a solution approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency for fresh pack line treatments as well as for fogging treatment applications.

According to BioSafe, ARRET is a new, innovative chemistry that utilizes a green and sustainable fatty acid formulation that burns down sprouts on contact. It’s described by the company as a highly cost-efficient and effective product that provides growers with "a new tool to enhance quality and storage life of potatoes, in turn increasing yield and bottom line."

A BioSafe press release states, "For in-storage potatoes, ARRET can be applied by any type of thermal fogger whenever potatoes are peeping, preventing any further sprouting. Its fatty acid chemistry is made up of completely food-safe ingredients and has no use restrictions. ARRET can also stop sprouts in their tracks on fresh-market potatoes. ARRET is easily dispersed in water and should be applied as a low-volume spray bar application when potatoes are being prepped for packaging." To learn more, visit BioSafe Systems.

Aussies Love Their Spuds

Potatoes continue to be seen as an important staple for Australians, according to the latest installment of a research initiative known as of the Potato Tracker project.

Survey results released in March indicate respondents consumed potatoes an average of 14 times per month. In addition, potatoes are also a consistent feature in the top five most purchased vegetables among those surveyed, and still regarded as good value for money.

"The report suggests that consumers purchase potatoes for a variety of reasons, including their ease of preparation, ability to be incorporated into a number of different meals and great taste," says Alexander Miller, a spokesman for AUSVEG, Australia’s leading horticultural body representing more than 2,000 potato growers.

"The latest research shows that Australians are drawn to the all-rounder vegetable that is quick and easy to prepare and is good for the whole family. The potato’s versatility is also a draw card, with its ability to complement a variety of meals a trigger for purchase," says Miller.

"Aussie consumers are also still showing signs that they are happy with the high-quality Australian potatoes available to them for purchase, which is wonderful news for the industry," he adds. "Potatoes are a great tasting addition to any meal. The fact that there are such a large number of triggers to purchase for potatoes is an encouraging sign for growers."

The report also showed that consumers enjoy pairing their potatoes with cauliflower, pumpkin, carrots, broccoli and green peas.

The Potato Tracker project is an industry-funded, consumer research initiative that’s designed to enable Australian potato growers to better orient their growing operations in terms of what consumers want and to maximize market opportunities. A wave of research is conducted each month, with consumers from around Australia surveyed on their potato purchasing habits. Each wave of research is distributed to the industry by AUSVEG. For more information, visit AUSVEG.

March 18th, 2015

Harper Government Invests In Potato R&D

A research program aimed at giving potato farmers a technological edge in predicting and preventing yield losses in their fields and in storage has been given a financial shot in the arm by the Harper government.

The government announced March 17 it was investing $1.83 million in the Canadian-led initiative. The collaborative research effort with several industry partners will be led by scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's Potato Research Centre in Fredericton, N.B. Researchers from Canada, France and New Zealand will use new discoveries about potato DNA, microbial life in the soil and insect behavior to find better ways to measure the health and quality of potato plants and tubers.

"The Canadian potato industry is a major economic driver in this country with annual farm and processing sales of more than $2 billion. This international collaboration brings together the research and technical resources of three countries to put the best possible science in the hands of our potato growers to create economic and environmental benefits," said Parliamentary Secretary Gerald Keddy, who made the announcement along with MP Mike Allen.

This investment under Growing Forward 2 has also helped leverage $821,800 in industry contributions. Project partners include BioNB, Comité Nord Plants des Pommes de Terre, Quebec-based potato operations Ferme Daniel Bolduc Inc. and Maxi-Sol Inc., Plant and Food Research New Zealand, Potatoes New Brunswick and France-based company CCL.

"We are pleased to be participating in this project since collaboration and knowledge sharing are keys to success and to major discoveries, both in fundamental research and in field applications for producers and food processors," said Virginie Gobert-Deveaux, R& D director at Comité Nord Plants de Pommes de Terre.

"This is a great example of bio-technology being used to develop innovative strategies to meet challenges in one of our traditional sectors. We look forward to working with our partners and commercializing the resulting technologies that will lead to increased yields and overall profits for farmers and a stronger and more sustainable potato industry," said Meaghan Seagrave, executive director at BioN.B

Research areas including the use of a new generation of powerful computer-based gene sequencers to identify genes in potato DNA that indicates when the plant experiences stress, with the goal of using these genes as markers for diagnostic tools on the farm. DNA sequencing will also be used to identify the billions of species of microbial life in the soil and to study their impact on potato common scab. For more information visit the Government of Canada website.

Canadian Potato Museum Wins Tourism Award

The Canadian Potato Museum in O'Leary, P.E.I. has been chosen winner of the 2015 Premier's Award for Tourism, handed out annually by the Prince Edward Island government. The prize was presented at the Tourism Industry Association of Prince Edward Island awards gala held March 4 in Charlottetown, P.E.I.

"In 2014 the Canadian Potato Museum in O’Leary had the best season in its history with over 10,000 visits to the facility," said P.E.I. Premier Wade MacLauchlan. "The board and staff have done a tremendous job attracting visitors by making sound investments to improve the facility and by developing fun and interesting programming. It is an excellent example of what can be accomplished with a strong product, wise investments, and a staff and board dedicated to creating a memorable experience for visitors. They are truly deserving of this honour."

The museum was founded in 1993 by a community-based board of directors. It was added to the site of O’Leary Community Museum that had been in place since 1967. Since that time the museum has grown, re-branded and expanded programming to better help Islanders and visitors alike learn about potatoes, how they’re grown, how they’re harvested, how they’re used, and about the people and communities at the centre of the potato industry in Canada. Aside from the many exhibits, the museum houses a gift shop and a restaurant that specializes in potato dishes.

"As MLA for the area, I’ve had a birds-eye view of the museum’s development over the last 20 years and it’s come a long way since its humble beginnings," said P.E.I. Minister of Tourism and Culture Robert Henderson. "Now, The Canadian Potato Museum is simply one of the best tourism attractions in West Prince. Other businesses in the area benefit from the additional traffic the museum creates. And, most importantly, it tells the story of the humble potato, the single most important commodity produced on the Island." To learn more visit the P.E.I. Government website.

Prison Terms For Insurance Fraud

Two North Dakota brothers were sentenced March 9 to prison time and ordered to pay back $932,000 for intentionally destroying potatoes to collect federal farm insurance payments. In separate hearings, U.S. District Judge Ralph Erickson sentenced Aaron Johnson to four years in prison and Derek Johnson to 18 months in prison. A jury had earlier convicted the pair of conspiring to receive illegal payments and giving false statements.

Prosecutors accused the brothers, who farmed potatoes near Northwood, N.D., of intentionally poisoning their potato seed during planting, as well as adding spoiled and frozen potatoes to their stored crop and using portable heaters to make the potatoes deteriorate faster. The defendants found that the best way to wreck the crop was using Rid-X, a chemical that's designed to dissolve solid materials in septic systems, prosecutors said.

Erickson said the brothers needed to serve prison time to reflect the seriousness of the crime and deter others from similar conduct. "This was a crime of dishonesty," Erickson said during Aaron Johnson's sentencing, which was held first. "It defrauded the taxpayers of the United States." For more information visit Associated Press.

International Potato Center Founder Passes Away

Richard L. Sawyer, the founder of the International Potato Center (CIP) and its first director-general, passed away on March 9 in Raleigh, North Carolina. "Dr. Sawyer’s legacy is enormous. His project to begin a potato research for development institute in the potato’s center of diversity was visionary and this work has led to improved nutrition, health, and livelihood for millions of rural poor in Latin America, Africa, and Asia," said Barbara Wells, CIP director-general.

Sawyer retired in 1991 from CIP, which was created in 1971 and opened its doors in Lima, Peru in 1972. Sawyer’s vision and strong leadership were instrumental in the design of CIP’s research program and the opening of regional offices throughout the world. He also strongly supported the conservation of genetic diversity for crop improvement and the creation of a comprehensive genebank with collections of potatoes, sweet potatoes, and Andean roots and tubers.

His former colleagues remember him as a compassionate individual who was very supportive of CIP staff and their families. "He always encouraged them to maintain a healthy balance between work and home," said Mike Jackson, former CIP scientific leader for Central America. Andre Devaux, CIP regional director of Latin America, remembers Sawyer as a "visionary and charismatic leader who supported risk-taking and innovation in science." For more information visit the International Potato Center.

March 5th, 2015

Agri-Mek SC Offers Improved Insect/Mite Control

Syngenta Canada Inc. is offering Agri-Mek SC, a new miticide-insecticide formulation for use on specialty and horticulture crops, including potatoes, onions, apples and grapes. Agri-Mek SC provides control of several species of economically significant mites and insects, as well as onion thrips

“Agri-Mek SC represents an improved standard for mite and insect control,” says Eric Phillips, product lead, fungicides and insecticides for Syngenta Canada. “Growers using the product can benefit from the concentrated formulation, which is effective at lower use rates and requires less product handling.”

Agri-Mek SC is a group 6 insecticide powered by the active ingredient abamectin. The translaminar activity of abamectin allows it to be absorbed rapidly, forming a reservoir of active ingredient within the leaf to provide residual control against mites and insects.

Agri-Mek SC is also tank-mix compatible with many other commonly used crop protection products. Agri-Mek SC may be applied by ground or air at the first signs of pest presence. For more information visit Syngenta Canada Inc.

Biotech Crops Show Continued Growth

In 2014, a record 181.5 million hectares of biotech crops were grown globally, an increase of more than six million hectares from 2013, according to a recent report by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications (ISAAA).

With the addition of Bangladesh, a total of 28 countries grew biotech crops during the year. The 20 developing and eight industrial countries where biotech crops are produced represent more than 60 per cent of the world’s population.

“The accumulated hectarage of biotech crops grown in 1996 to 2014 equals, roughly, 80 per cent more than the total land mass of China,” says Clive James, ISAAA founder and report author. “Global hectarage has increased more than 100-fold since the first plantings of biotech crops.”

Since 1996, more than 10 food and fibre biotech crops have been approved and commercialized around the world. These range from major commodities such as maize, soybean and cotton, to fruits and vegetables like papaya, eggplant and, most recently, potato. The traits of these crops address common issues affecting crop benefits to the consumer and production rates for farmers, including drought tolerance, insect and disease resistance, herbicide tolerance and increased nutrition and food quality. Biotech crops contribute to more sustainable crop production systems and provide resilient responses to the challenges of climate change.

According to the report, the United States continues to lead production at 73.1 million hectares in 2114. Up three million hectares ― a growth rate of four per cent ― from 2013, the United States recorded the highest year-over-year increase, surpassing Brazil, which has recorded the highest annual increase for the past five years. For more information visit the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications.

Researchers Develop New Method in Controlling CPB

Colorado potato beetle (CPB) is one of the most destructive and hard to control insect pests due to its resistance against pesticides. An alternative to pesticides has now been developed by researchers from Max Planck Institute. According to the researchers, the new technology utilizes molecular biology and allows for precise protection against CPB without using chemicals or introducing foreign proteins into the potato plant.

This was done by adopting the mechanism of RNS interference (RNAi) in protecting plant, fungi and insect against virus. The RNAi works by identifying the double stranded RNA transferred by the viral pathogen to host’s cell and chopping this dsRNA into small interfering RNAs (siRNAS). siRNAs are then used to detect and destroy foreign RNA.

This RNAi mechanism has been employed by genetically engineering plants to modify their nuclear genome to produce dsRNA against insect pests. The researchers aimed to improve upon this process by developing transplastomic plants, in which the chloroplast genome is subject to modification instead of the nuclear genome. Feeding studies of potato beetle larvae with the leaves of transplastomic plants show that the leaves are lethal to the larvae and gain an increase resistance against herbivores. For more information visit the Max Planck Institute.

February 19th, 2015

Palettes Affecting B.C. Potato Crops

About a third of B.C.'s potato production — both in acreage dedicated to the crop and in weight of annual produce — have disappeared over the course of a decade, and the industry says local appetites may be responsible.

Murray Driediger, president and CEO of BC Fresh, an organization owned by a number of local farming families, says he's seen this trend become more apparent as the province's demographic shifts with new cultural cuisines — many that don't make heavy use of the potato.

"The irony is, I know my kids, we go out to eat and they like Thai food and Japanese food and sushi and Indian food and all of these different things," Driediger says. "You've got a whole new generation being brought up with very expanded choices in menu items, and so what we've seen is the impact that is having on the product."

Driediger also pointed to the trend of "reduced carb" diets, people choosing other veggies to replace their potato consumption, and the ready availability of other fresh produce year-round cutting into demand.

"While our potato acreage may be down, our acreage in other areas has increased — our overall volume has increased over the last 10 years," he said, pointing to changes farmers have made to reflect the demand.

Some farmers in B.C. have also turned to smaller "baby potatoes," which weigh less, but sell for more. "They're harvested earlier, they sell for more, but they impact average yield — when we grow early potatoes in the months of June and July we got yields of 12-18,000 pounds per acre," Driediger says. "But when you're harvesting [bigger] potatoes in the fall, you may have crops in excess of 40,000 pounds to the acre." Read more at Vancouver 24 hrs.

France Starts Massive Marketing Campaign To Promote Potato

A major campaign to stimulate the consumption of potatoes has begun in France. Spearheaded by France's major potato association and financially supported by the French government and the European Union, the three-year effort will target various media platforms, including TV, web and social media.

The campaign encompasses two different marketing programs — one focused just on potatoes and the other focusing on other fruits and vegetables in addition to potatoes. The first campaign stresses the versatility of the potato, and delves into how different potato dishes require different potato characteristics and therefore different potato varieties.

France is the second potato producer in the western European Union, after Germany, and is the EU's biggest exporter of potatoes. For more information, visit Greenmed Journal.

Global Frozen Food Market To Reach $156 Billion By 2020

According to a new market report "Global Market Study on Frozen Food: Frozen Ready Meals to be the Largest Segment by 2020" published by Persistence Market Research, the global frozen food market was valued at $122.1 billion in 2013. It's expected to grow at a compound annual growth rate of 3.6 per cent from 2014 to 2020, to reach an estimated value of $156.4 billion in 2020.

Busy lives are influencing consumers to shift their dietary preferences towards ready-to-eat food products, making frozen foods an important part of the modern diet. The report cites changing customer purchasing patterns, rising numbers of women working outside the home, and increasing urban populations as driving factors behind the growth of the global frozen food market. The availability of a wide range of frozen food products in different food categories is another important factor.

Europe has the largest market share for frozen food, followed by North America and Asia Pacific. In Asia Pacific, economic developments paired with increasing urbanization and disposable income are some factors driving the frozen food market. As a result of these factors, this region is expected the experience the highest growth in this market. The report is available at Persistence Market Research.

Biotech Sweet Potatoes That Can Grow In The Desert

Scientists at the Korea Research Institute of Bioscience and Biotechnology have developed a new technology that aims to prevent desertification using biotech crops, including sweet potato. The research team has successfully planted biotech sweet potatoes in China's Kubichi Desert and in Kazakhstan, two of the largest semi-arid areas in northeast Asia.

"Our ultimate goal is to grow a large amount of genetically modified sweet potatoes in areas affected by desertification in China, Kazakhstan, the Middle East, and Africa, based on decoded information on the genome of sweet potatoes," says research leader Kwak Sang-soo.

Sang-soo says about 90 percent of desertification is due to poverty. "Overgrazing, damage to forests, and the inappropriate management of water and soil, stemming from the poverty of the local people, are core reasons for desertification. So, the cultivation of crops can be the most effective preventative measure," he explains.

The research team is also decoding the genome of sweet potatoes in collaboration with Chinese and Japanese researchers. The genome of sweet potato is harder to decode than the human genome, but researchers predict the project will be completed in 2016. Read more at Business Korea.

February 4th, 2015

New Export Requirements Negotiated for P.E.I. Potatoes

The Canadian Food Inspection Agency has negotiated an agreement with the United States Department of Agriculture's Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (USDA- to prevent the spread of potato wart and maintain market access for Canadian potato growers.

According to a CFIA industry notice issued Jan. 26, new requirements are now in place for exporting potatoes from Prince Edward Island to the U.S.

Due to recent detections of potato wart on P.E.I., the CFIA continues to survey for this pest and is enforcing restrictions to prevent further spread from infested and associated fields. Potatoes from any field under CFIA restrictions for potato wart are not eligible for shipment to the U.S.

All other requirements for the export of potatoes produced in Canada, including P.E.I., remain in effect and must be met. The above additional requirements are strictly for P.E.I. potatoes destined for the U.S.

Potato wart poses no risk to human health or food safety. However, it can impact the economic viability of the potato industry by reducing yield and making potatoes unmarketable.

Since 2000, when potato wart was first detected on P.E.I., the CFIA has confirmed the detection of potato wart in 23 fields on the Island These detections are expected and are as a result of ongoing CFIA survey activities and industry vigilance.

The potato industry has an important role to play in meeting U.S. import requirements and maintaining access for Canadian potatoes. The CFIA will seek the full collaboration of stakeholders to continue traceability activities and to verify that all applicable treatments have been applied.

CFIA inspectors continue to monitor for potato wart through ongoing surveillance, soil sampling and analysis. The CFIA and USDA-APHIS, along with industry representatives from both countries, continue to work closely together to prevent the spread of potato wart and maintain the trade of potatoes.

For a listing of complete requirements for potatoes from P.E.I., visit the CFIA website.

Reward Deadline Extended in Potato Tampering Investigation

A $100,000 reward for information leading to the arrests of the person or persons responsible for inserting sewing needles into potatoes in Prince Edward Island has been extended to April 30.

Originally, the reward fund was established in November by the Prince Edward Island Potato Board, and was in effect for tips received up until Jan. 31. There have been no arrests to date in the police investigation, so the reward deadline has been extended.

A press release put out by the P.E.I. Potato Board on Feb. 2 states: "The potatoes were destined for human consumption and the local industry remains concerned about the effect cowardly acts such as this have on the confidence of consumers in the food supply."

Anyone knowing the individual or individuals involved, or who has information that would assist police in this investigation, is asked to contact the Prince Edward Island RCMP at 902 436 9300. Alternatively, an email can be sent to This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it and an investigator will respond.

Information may be provided anonymously to Crime Stoppers by phone at 1 800 222 8477 (TIPS), via the web at, or by text by texting "TIP162" plus your message to (274637) CRIMES.

Herbicide Label Expanded to Control Weeds on Potatoes

The Pest Management Regulatory Agency recently announced the approval of a minor use label expansion for Reflex herbicide for control of weeds on potatoes in Eastern Canada. This Syngenta herbicide was already labeled for management of weeds on beans and cucumbers in Canada.

This minor use project was originally submitted by the Ontario government in 2012 as a result of minor use priorities established by growers and extension personnel in Canada. For more information visit Ontario Farmer.

Levels of Zebra Chip Down in U.S. Pacific Northwest

Researchers say levels of zebra chip, a crop disease in potatoes spread by potato psyllids and caused by the Liberibacter bacterium, are dropping in the U.S. Pacific Northwest. A new study indicates the number of potato psyllids found harboring the Liberibacter bacteria dropped significantly during 2014.

Zebra chip, which causes bands in potato flesh that darken when fried, first arrived in the Pacific Northwest in 2011. By 2012, infections remained minimal as a percentage of the overall Idaho crop but ran as high as 15 percent in certain spud fields, says University of Idaho Extension entomologist Erik Wenninger.

In 2013, 33 of 1,093 psyllids captured through a UI monitoring program tested positive for Liberibacter. Just 170 psyllids were captured in 2014, with four testing positive for Liberibacter. No infected spud plants were found. For more information, visit Capital Press.

New Research Confirms French Fries Not a Source of Trans Fat

More than any other segment of the food industry, the potato industry has made the greatest improvements in the fatty acid profile of its products, including french fried potatoes. Although the oils used to cook today's fries are now predominately all-vegetable oils that contain primarily mono- and polyunsaturated fats, french fries are still often incorrectly cited as a source of trans fat in popular media and scientific publications alike. The dramatic reduction in the trans fat content of french fried potatoes was recently confirmed by two new studies published in Preventing Chronic Disease.

Researchers at the Jean Mayer United States Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging at Tufts University near Boston, Mass., analyzed the calorie, sodium, saturated fat, and the trans fat content of popular menu items served at three national fast food chains between 1996 and 2013. They found that while the average calorie, sodium and saturated fat content stayed relatively constant across most menu items, there was a marked and consistent decline in the trans fat content of french fries.

In fact, the researchers noted that when assessed per 1,000 kcal, the trans fat content of french fries, independent of fast food chains, declined in the last decade to become virtually undetectable.

These changes are documented by three more key government studies, which were acknowledged by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration in its recent notice on the proposed rule on the Generally Recognized as Safe status of partially hydrogenated oils. In addition to transforming the nutrient profile of cooking oils, innovations in food technology are continually improving the nutrient profiles of all forms of the white potato to ensure that this already nutritious, affordable, and popular vegetable continues to align with dietary guidance.

The most recent available consumption data show that french fries are consumed in amounts well within current dietary guidance and that they contribute important nutrients while providing a very small proportion of calories, saturated fat and trans fat to the diets of North Americans. Today's french fries are prepared with healthier oils, and are consumed in moderation, and can be part of a healthy, well-balanced diet.

For more information on the nutrient profile of modern french fries, visit Alliance for Potato Research and Education.

February 3rd, 2015

500 Attend Manitoba Potato Production Days

According to organizers, approximately 500 growers, processors and other industry representatives gathered in Brandon, Man., for Manitoba Potato Production Days. The annual conference and trade show, which this year featured more than a dozen speakers and close to 75 exhibits and displays, ran Jan. 23 to 25.

Joe Brennan, a retired potato grower and the former chair of both Potatoes New Brunswick and the Canadian Potato Council, spoke on Jan. 24 about a project to improve yields and competitiveness for the New Brunswick potato industry. Brennan is managing the project, which started last year and is a joint effort by Potatoes New Brunswick, McCain Foods, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada and the New Brunswick department of agriculture.

Part of the Brennan's mandate is to observe growing practices in other potato producing areas, and he spoke about a trip he'd just taken to Argentina with a group of growers from New Brunswick and Maine as well as some McCain representatives.

Brennan said the group spent a week touring farms that supplies a McCain plant in Argentina to compare growing practices and see what lessons could be learned and applied to potato production in New Brunswick and Maine.

Producers in Argentina, he said, are facing many of the same challenges as many Canadian and American growers in the increasingly competitive global processing potato market. However, the South American country has favourable growing conditions and a very large potato growing area, Brennan added, with yields in the range of 500 hundredweight per acre. He also noted there are improvements in the works in Argentina that could boost potato yields up to 600 hundredweight per acre.

"They do a very good job there," Brennan said. "The potential is staggering."

For more information about Manitoba Potato Production Days, visit

Neonicotinoids and Honey Bee Health

One of best-attended presentations at Manitoba Potato Production Days, the three-day potato conference and trade show which ran Jan. 23 to 25 in Brandon, Man., focused on neonicotinoid pesticides and honey bee health.

Maryam Sultan spoke Jan. 24 in support of the use of neonicotinoids, the subject of much debate in recent years because of some research linking these insecticides to bee deaths.

Sultan has been working as a honey bee health associate for Bayer CropScience in Guelph, Ont., since April, 2014. Before that she participated in a large-scale field experiment in southern Ontario during the summer of 2012 and the spring of 2013 to determine whether exposure to neonicotinoid seed-treated canola had any adverse impacts on honey bees.

During the study, honey bees foraging on test fields were exposed to low levels of clothianidin, a type of neonicotinoid. Chemical residue analysis indicated that exposure to canola grown from seed treated with clothianidin poses a low risk to honey bees.

"We found no correlation between the presence of neonicotinoids and any signs of stress in the hives," Sultan told her audience at MPPD.

She added that weather has a significant impact on bee health. "Cold springs can really affect their foraging, and they may not have enough food available," said Sultan, adding that "supplemental feeding is essential for hives, especially in the spring."

Sultan also touched on the growing body of research related to the complexity of honey bee health, and how different stressors such as bee diseases, viruses and parasites like the Varroa mite can all play a role in population declines. "What is the impact of viruses and other micro-organisms on hive health?" she asked. "We just don't know enough about that."

For more information about Manitoba Potato Production Days, visit

January 22nd, 2015

Bayer Showcases Spud Power at 2015 Potato Expo

During the 2015 Potato Expo held recently in Orlando, Fla., Bayer CropScience demonstrated the power of one of the world's most important staple crops through the Share the Spuds giving campaign. The initiative encouraged attendees to help Bayer decide how to allocate a $10,000 donation to the Society of St. Andrew, an organization that provides potatoes and other fresh produce to help feed the hungry, by voting on the geographic breakdown of the donation.

While at the Bayer booth, Potato Expo attendees also had the opportunity to charge their devices with an alternative power source — potato electricity. Bayer CropScience demonstrated the power of the potato as an electrical conduit with its nine-by-four foot potato wall. When paired with zinc and copper, the moisture inside a potato acts as battery acid. Booth visitors charged their electronic devices at a charging station powered by nearly 1,000 potatoes. For more information visit Bayer CropScience.

CPMA Launches Half Your Plate Program

The Canadian Produce Marketing Association and its partners have launched Half Your Plate, a new healthy eating initiative, across the country. Half Your Plate is aimed at empowering Canadians of all ages to eat more fruits and veggies to improve their health while providing simple and practical ways to add a variety of produce to every meal and snack. After a successful launch on social media this summer, Half Your Plate is now making its way onto produce packaging and into retail stores across Canada.

"Now is the perfect time to introduce consumers to Half Your Plate. It's a new year and a great time to start eating healthier, especially when it's this easy," says Sam Silvestro, chair of the CPMA marketing and promotions committee.

"Rather than having people count servings or worry about serving size, our messaging is that at every meal, make half your plate fruit and vegetables. By the end of the day, you'll have your recommended number of servings," says Ron Lemaire, president of the CPMA. "That also translates when you're at the grocery store. Half your cart should be fruit and veggies, and having retailers promote the campaign re-emphasizes the importance of making healthier choices at the store."

Although Canadians are becoming more conscious of what they eat, studies show that the average person only consumes 3.5 to 4.5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day. Yet Canada's Food Guide recommends that adults get seven to 10 servings per day, depending on gender. Half Your Plate encourages people to take it one meal at a time, analysing the make-up of their plate rather than specific servings that can be confusing to many.

The Half Your Plate campaign was developed in collaboration with health partners the Canadian Cancer Society, the Canadian Public Health Association and the Heart and Stroke Foundation. For more information visit Half Your Plate.

Experts Say Potatoes Contribute to National Security of India

Scientists who attended India's International Potato Expo recently said that the potato has played an important role in the nutritional security of the country.

"The challenge of food security is over, with abundant wheat and rice being grown in the country, but it is not providing nutritional security. We have to depend on potatoes to give proper nutrition to the country," said BP Singh, director of the Central Potato Research Institute in Shimla, India.

Singh added potatoes alone contributed four times more than wheat and rice to the nation's gross domestic product. Potato production has grown from 1.5 million tonnes in 1949 to 40 million tonnes in 2008.

"By 2050, we want the production to reach more than 200 million tonnes, which is possible with research," Singh said. For more information visit Hindustan Times.

China to Position Potato as Staple Food

The potato is poised to become China's newest staple food after rice, wheat and corn. According to the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture, by 2020, 50 per cent of the annual production of potatoes will be for domestic consumption as a staple food.

Rice, wheat and corn have been primary foods for Chinese people for thousands of years. The potato is popular as a vegetable in Chinese cuisine, but the Ministry of Agriculture is now trying to increase its profile as a staple food.

"In making the potato into a staple food, we're trying to process it into bread steamed bun and noodle which is suited to Chinese consumer behaviour. It is also to turn it from a non-staple food into a staple food," says Pan Wenbo, deputy head of the department of crop protection with the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture.

China will experience 50 billion kilograms of new food demand by 2020. But it has a shortage of farmland and it is hard to improve the yield of wheat and rice, which makes the potato an attractive alternative crop, according to the Chinese agriculture officials.

"Potato can survive in cold, drought and barren environment. It has great potential to be planted in large vacant fields in the south during winter," says Yu Xinrong, China's vice minister of agriculture. For more information visit Ministry of Agriculture of the People's Republic of China.

UV Bursts Offer Chemical-free Destruction of Seed Potato Pathogens

Britain's Techneat Engineering has unveiled a new, pulsed UV light system for cleaning seed potatoes and fresh produce. Already in use in industrial and healthcare sterilization equipment, the technology has now been trialed with growers and industry specialists.

The patented technology concentrates UV energy into a flash lasting fractions of a millisecond, at a wavelength that terminally disrupts the DNA and cell structure of pathogens.

According to researchers at the Potato Council's Sutton Bridge research centre, the technique can potentially tackle both bacterial and fungal diseases, including blackleg, silver scurf, black dot and other potato skin disorders.

Laboratory trials have demonstrated a single flash of pulsed UV light gave an 85 per cent reduction in live blackleg bacteria on the tuber surface, with a flash sequence yielding a 97 per cent reduction, with no adverse effect on the tuber itself.

Its role in extending the shelf life of salad and vegetable crops is currently under investigation. For more information visit Techneat Engineering.

West Coast Shipping Hinders Idaho Exports

Following the holiday season, prices in the Idaho potato market remain strong. "We are very encouraged by the positive market so far this year," says Frank Muir, president of the Idaho Potato Commission.

While Europe is currently experiencing low prices due to an increase in volume, this causes no impact on the American potato market. However, the Idaho Potato Commission is experiencing a disadvantage in overseas shipping.

"The European market is not affecting us," states Muir, "but we are greatly affected by West Coast shipping problems." Although Idaho's shipping pace is ahead of last year, delays by the longshoremen's union have created a hold up on international exports.

"A strike has not been declared, but junior workers with less experience are handling all shipments. There is no hurry and shipments are slowing down," he says.

According to Muir, West Coast shipping problems have been happening for several months and are causing a big impact on the U.S. market. "They are essentially controlling the market," he says. "Their actions are causing companies to lose customers throughout the Northwest."

Idaho potatoes are shipped in three main varieties: fresh, frozen, and dehydrated. Delays have affected all three categories. "Asia buys a lot of dehydrated potatoes for snacking and cooking needs," says Muir, "delays in fresh potato shipments are most devastating as they have a shelf life. Frozen potatoes keep longer, however it is costly to store them." For more information visit Idaho Potato Commission.

January 8th, 2015

Ontario Potato Conference Coming Up in March

Guelph, Ont., is gearing up to host the Ontario Potato Conference on March 5. The speakers' list for this year's event includes Gary Secor from North Dakota State University, who will deliver a presentation on late blight management in the field and in storage. Peter VanderZaag of Sunrise Potato Storage Ltd. in Alliston, Ont. will also speak about his experience with late blight from a potato producer's perspective.

The black cutworm is potato pest that can cause significant yield losses by chewing holes in tubers, making them unmarketable. Ian MacRae from the University of Minnesota will discuss management practices to reduce yield losses caused by this insect.

Michael Thornton from the University of Idaho will talk about potato growth and the strategies for increasing yield and quality during crop development. Christine Brown from the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rurual Affairs will discuss soil management practices to enhance soil health. To register for this year's Ontario Potato Conference contact Eugenia Banks at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Bravo ZN Fungicide Label Expanded to 30 New Crops

Syngenta Canada Inc. has announced that Bravo ZN, a fungicide of choice for many potato growers, has received registration for use on 30 new crops including pulses, fruiting vegetables, cucurbit vegetables, blueberries, onions and ginseng.

"Bravo ZN is widely used by potato growers to control in-season disease pressure," says Eric Phillips, product lead of fungicides and insecticides for Syngenta Canada. "Now, growers can realize the same disease control across a broad range of crops, thanks to the recent label expansion of Bravo ZN fungicide."

Bravo ZN is a broad-spectrum, contact fungicide powered by the active ingredient chlorothalonil, which offers protection against several damaging diseases. It also includes Syngenta's patented WeatherStik technology, a surfactant that maximizes the product's rainfastness. For more information visit Syngenta Canada.

TomTato Comes to the U.S.

An Oregon seed company is offering gardeners potatoes and tomatoes together in a plant known as the TomTato, a hybrid of cherry tomatoes and potatoes. The Territorial Seed Company in Cottage Grove, Ore., is calling it "Ketchup 'n' Fries."

The Oregonian reports the plant was developed in the United Kingdom. The roots of the TomTato are thin-skinned white potatoes attached to a vine of red cherry tomatoes. The seed company says since potatoes and tomatoes are fairly closely related, they graft well together. It's not genetic engineering.

The Territorial Seed Company, is selling the TomTato in its 2015 seed catalog as a way for home gardeners to maximize use of limited space. Instead of planting potatoes and tomatoes in separate areas, the company's literature for the TomTato advises that the plant can grow in a 10-gallon container. For more information visit the Oregonian newspaper.

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