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.
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.
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, 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.
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
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:
- the West Coast labour dispute, which prompted fryers to cover more of their customers' needs from Canada
- the declining value of the Canadian dollar, which makes it more economical to produce french fries in 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.
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.
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 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.
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.
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.
An Innate Russet Burbank next to a conventional Russett Burbank 30 minutes after being peeled. Photo: J.R. Simplot Company.
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.
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.
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 lays.com 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 lays.com.
April 30th, 2015
GRANT FURTHERS DRONE RESEARCH INTO POTATO DISEASE
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.
BACTERIAL DNA FOUND IN CULTIVATED SWEET POTATO
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 phys.org.
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 swissinfo.ch.
"Salt" potatoes being sorted prior to packaging at the Salty Potato Farm in the Netherlands. Photo: phys.org.
SALTWATER POTATOES OFFER HOPE TO WORLD’S HUNGRY
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 phys.org.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
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."
Information may be provided anonymously to Crime Stoppers by phone at 1 800 222 8477 (TIPS), via the web at peicrimestoppers.com, or by text by texting "TIP162" plus your message to (274637) CRIMES.
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.
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.
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
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."
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."
January 22nd, 2015
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.