At the Root | Spud Smart Summer 2011


People News

sum2011-2-at-the-rootMcCain Foods Announces New President and CEO
The board of directors of McCain Foods Ltd. has appointed Dirk Van de Put as president and chief executive officer and a director of the company, succeeding Dale Morrison, effective July 1, 2011.Through the normal leadership review and succession process, the board of directors recruited and appointed Van de Put as chief operating officer and a director of the operating company board in May 2010. Van de Put brings extraordinary global experience gained from more than 20 years in the food and consumer packaged goods industry to the position. He has joined McCain Foods from Novartis, where he was president of the global over-the-counter consumer health business.

Product News

DMN Products Now Registered in Canada
Three products that enhance the natural dormancy of stored potatoes are now registered for use in Canada. Following years of research and use by growers and shippers, these 1,4-DMN-based products have proven to be successful in controlling sprouts while maintaining the field freshness of potatoes. Two of the products, 1,4SIGHT and 1,4SEED, are in-store treatments while the third, 1,4SHIP, is applied in a shipping container.

Makhteshim and Isagro Sign Agreement
The Makhteshim Agan Group and the Isagro Company have reached an agreement for the exclusive license of the active ingredient kiralaxyl for seed dressing applications globally. According to the agreement, MAI will have the rights to register, develop, and market mixtures and formulations based on kiralaxyl for the seed dressing market. Isagro will continue to manufacture and hold registrations for kiralaxyl. The agreement also allows for the development and registration of products to better address customer needs in the segment of seed dressing, predominantly in North America. Kiralaxyl is a systemic fungicide with protective and curative action. The molecule is mostly used as a foliar fungicide in grapes, potatoes and vegetables, and is sold in mixtures.

New Automatic Bulk Baggersum2011-5-at-the-root
JMC Packaging Equipment has added a new automatic bulk bagger to its product line. The model BPB5000 automatically fills 50-pounds of potatoes into paper bags, and is based on the Automatic Master Potato Baler, featuring the same construction and reliability. This new model automatically opens, gently fills and recloses the bag, then feeds the bag into an integrated sewing head of the customer’s choice. The sewing head is mounted to the bagger frame on a swing-away bracket, ensuring a secure closure. The BPB5000 can be fed by most automatic weighing devices and produces up to 10 bags per minute. The BPB5000 is manufactured at, and supported with after sales parts and service from, the company’s factory located in Burlington, Ontario.

Syngenta Canada Offers Product Guide
Syngenta Canada has announced that its 2011 Horticulture Product Guide is now available for fruit and vegetable producers. Covering more than 20 products across the categories of herbicides, fungicides and insecticides, the guide encompasses registered crops for each product, pests controlled, application rates and timing, and additional usage guidelines and information. “This is the first time Syngenta has produced a single, stand-alone guide that covers every one of our horticulture products,” says Steve Gomme, Syngenta customer marketing manager for horticulture. “Given the breadth and depth of the Syngenta horticulture portfolio, we know our 2011 Horticulture Product Guide will prove a valuable and well-used resource for Canadian fruit and vegetable growers.” Producers interested in obtaining a copy of the guide should contact their local Syngenta territory manager or call the Syngenta Customer Resource Centre at 1-877-964-3682.

Presidio Registered for Use on Potatoes
Presidio fungicide, from Valent Canada Inc., is now registered for use on potatoes in Canada. Presidio is a targeted chemistry for growers with crops threatened by downy mildews. In vegetables, including potatoes, Presidio also controls late blight (Phytophthora infestans). Presidio’s fast-acting chemistry has a novel mode of action and is in a new chemical class—giving growers a powerful tool to control tough diseases and ward off resistance issues. Unlike other fungicide products, Presidio has no known tank mix limitations with other fungicides or insecticides, allowing growers’ flexibility in their crop protection programs. Presidio can be applied to soil or used as a foliar treatment, depending on the crop.

New Foliar Insecticide Provides Aphid Control
Bayer CropScience has received registration for its Concept insecticide and will be available to soybean and horticulture growers across Canada for the 2011 growing season. “Along with soybeans, Concept controls a broad range of pests in potato, tomato, blueberry and brassica vegetables,” says David Kikkert, portfolio manager of horticulture with Bayer. Concept is the first insecticide to be available as an oil-based, solvent-free flowable co-formulation, combining two modes of action and active ingredients: imidacloprid and deltamethrin. The patented O-TEQ liquid formulation ensures that Concept is rainfast, acts quickly, and stays on the leaves longer than other products. Concept is available from retailers across Canada.

CIP Publishes Advanced Clones and Varieties Virtual Catalogue
The International Potato Center has published a catalogue of advanced clones online and on DVD,  which provides up-to-the-minute information on the  clones and varieties available for worldwide distribution from the center. The catalogue contains detailed information on 220 advanced clones and 55 improved varieties of potato. Directed at national research programs, universities, producer associations, and private companies, the catalogue is an important resource for any researcher or institution interested in obtaining candidate varieties of potato with biotic resistance to pests and diseases, high yield, and potential for both fresh consumption or processing.

Business News

Functional Technologies Receives Funding for Acryleast
Vancouver-based Functional Technologies Corp. has announced that its subsidiary, Phyterra Yeast Inc., has been awarded $2.5 million in funding from the Government of Canada’s Atlantic Innovation Fund. The funds will support a fast-track project by the company to develop and commercialize the application of its proprietary acrylamide-preventing yeast technology Acryleast, in the processed potato industry. Acryleast accelerates the natural ability of yeast to consume asparagine, preventing the formation of acrylamide in the processing of baked foods and potato products. The funding will enable Functional Technologies to develop, validate, and maximize the performance of Acryleast in various processing protocols for potato foods and snacks.

AVEBE and BASF Plant Science Take Next Stepsum2011-3-at-the-root
Potato starch manufacturer AVEBE and BASF Plant Science have confirmed the next step in their cooperation to develop genetically-enhanced amylopectin starch potatoes. BASF assumes ownership for the genetically-enhanced amylopectin starch potato Modena. “Through the cooperation with BASF, AVEBE will be able to enhance the commercialization of its plant biotechnology knowledge. The potential of the positive environmental impact during cultivation will be better accessible, with genetically enhanced varieties leading to higher yields. This step is beneficial for our stakeholders in the potato starch value chain,” said Gerben Meursing, AVEBE managing director of commerce. The cooperation started with the development of a late blight-resistant amylopectin starch potato.

Cavendish to Reduce Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Cavendish Farms will invest in new technology to use more cost-effective natural gas and achieve a significant reduction in greenhouse gas emissions at the New Annan plant. “As with our investment in biogas, we are always looking to reduce our carbon footprint while making our plant more competitive,” said Robert Irving, president of Cavendish Farms. “We are looking to eliminate the use of 29 million litres per year of heavy oil while achieving a 30 per cent reduction in energy costs, and a 28 per cent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions with natural gas.” The government of Prince Edward Island is supporting this investment with a repayable loan of $15 million for a five-year term. Cavendish will now invest in constructing the receiving station for natural gas truck deliveries. When completed, it is estimated that eight to8-10 new jobs will be created by the move to natural gas. The company expects to begin using natural gas in December 2011.

Industry News

CPC Challenges Study
The Canadian Potato Council is challenging the conclusions of a recent study published in the New England Journal of Medicine on potatoes and potato consumption—the study, the CPC says, wrongly depicts potatoes as a hindrance to weight loss and maintaining a healthy body weight. The majority of the scientific nutrition community states that potatoes are nutrient-dense, meaning many nutrients are obtained for the amount of calories. According to leading nutritionists, such as Katherine Beals, Fellow of the American College of Sports Medicine and a nutrition consultant to the United States Potato Board, “The study calls into question the long-validated idea that the ultimate determinate of weight gain and weight loss is calories in and calories out … but the study says ‘total energy intake was not included as a co-variable.’ This means calories weren’t included in the analyses. So it’s disingenuous for the researchers to say calories aren’t important because their study didn’t control for them.” CPC chair Keith Kuhl says the study is confusing. “It fails to quantify how an extra serving of any food or beverage will affect your weight. Potatoes are Canada’s number one vegetable, and an extremely healthy, versatile part of our diet.”

Canada Invests to Improve Potato Pest Management
Canadian potato growers will benefit from a Government of Canada investment in research that will help them control parasites. The Honourable Jean-Pierre Blackburn, Minister of State (Agriculture), has announced that the Centre de Recherche Les Buissons Inc. will receive up to $700,000 to develop an integrated parasite management strategy to combat potato cyst nematodes. “This research will provide producers with tools to help improve pest management practices for potato production in Canada and allow them to remain competitive in international markets,” says Blackburn.

P.E.I. Offers New Potato Seed Testing Service
The Prince Edward Island Department of Agriculture is offering a new service to potato growers that will test potato seed lots for fusarium dry rot disease. If found, the fusarium species will be tested for sensitivity to commonly used fungicides. The service will help growers ensure they are using a fungicide that is effective against fusarium dry rot. Brian Beaton, potato industry coordinator with the department, says that over the last number of years there has been an increasing amount of fusarium seed-piece decay in seed lots, and a number of the strains of fusarium are showing resistance to commonly used fungicides. The test will take approximately two weeks. The samples may be placed in a sealed plastic bag and can be submitted to the research station in Charlottetown. There is no cost for the testing service.

Antioxidant Analysis of Organic vs. Non-Organic Potatoes
With demand for organically-produced food steadily increasing, scientists are reporting new evidence that organically grown onions, carrots, and potatoes generally do not have higher levels of healthful antioxidants and related substances than vegetables grown with traditional fertilizers and pesticides. Pia Knuthsen and colleagues, in a study published in the bi-weekly Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, point out there are many reasons to pay a premium for organic food products. The scientists describe experiments in which they analysed antioxidants, called polyphenols, from onions, carrots and potatoes grown using conventional and organic methods. They found no differences in polyphenol content for organic versus traditional methods of growth. “On the basis of the present study carried out under well-controlled conditions, it cannot be concluded that organically-grown onions, carrots and potatoes generally have higher contents of health-promoting secondary metabolites in comparison with the conventionally cultivated ones,” the report states.

Researcher Receives Grant to Study Late Blight
Howard Judelson, a professor of plant pathology at the University of California, Riverside, has received a $9 million five-year grant from the United States Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture to research late blight to ensure sustainable and long-term control of this devastating disease. “In this research project, we will develop an integrated plan of research, education, and extension that includes developing diagnostic tools, resistant plants through breeding and biotechnology, and systems to provide improved management guidelines to growers,” explains Judelson. The research project will focus on providing growers with better tools for managing the disease. These include better systems for making disease management decisions, plant varieties that are more resistant, tools for rapid identification of the pathogen and tools for characterizing pathogen strains.

Technique Improves Sensitivity of PCR Pathogen Detection
A new procedure devised by USDA scientists can improve polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based methods of detecting plant disease organisms. “PCR-based tests are valuable tools for diagnosing plant diseases. But the test’s ability to obtain a genetic fingerprint conclusively identifying a culprit pathogen hinges on there being a minimum number of its cells. Otherwise, the pathogen’s genetic material can’t be probed and multiplied in amounts necessary for detection,” says plant pathologist Norm Schaad, formerly with USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. Besides increasing sensitivity by 100- to 1,000-fold over conventional PCR methods, the enrichment technique stops substances called inhibitors from interfering with the action of a key enzyme, Taq polymerase. Bio-PCR works best with fast-growing bacteria such as Ralstonia solanacearum, which causes bacterial wilt of potatoes and tomatoes. The research has been published in the April 2011 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

Researchers Discover Genetic Control Box
In the future, plant breeders may be able to develop potato varieties that are better able to withstand long drought spells than the varieties currently grown. This is the outcome of a study carried out in March by Anitha Kumari at Wageningen University. Kumari discovered huge differences in the ability of potato plants to recover from drought spells. She also discovered one specific region in the potato genome that harbours the genes that regulate the response to drought in potato plants. In her study, Kumari investigated whether the genes in potato plants had an increased or decreased activity at the beginning of the dry spell. Kumari discovered that more than 1,000 genes specifically responded to dry conditions. Genetic analysis of the potato plants demonstrated that the differences in the activity of many of these genes rely on one specific area in the potatoes’ DNA. This regulatory region was only active under drought, and not under normal conditions, which led her to conclude that a major controller of the plants’ early response to drought is probably located within this region of the DNA.

World Potato Congress 2012 to be Held in Scotland
The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board Potato Council will stage the eighth World Potato Congress in Edinburgh, Scotland, May 27–30,  2012. The World Potato Congress has appointed the AHDB Potato Council to host the event in Great Britain, in what is being described as one of the world’s most vibrant potato research, breeding, growing and commercial environments. The aim is to bring the world’s potato specialists together to create a forum conducive to sharing information on all aspects of the potato industry.