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People News

New President For WPC

David Thompson has been appointed president and CEO of the World Potato Congress, headquartered in Charlottetown, P.E.I.  With 40 years of experience in the North American and global potato industry, Thompson has been a member of the WPC board of directors since 2000 and served as the organization’s vice-president before accepting this position.

Long-time KPPA Manager Stepping Down

Manitoba’s Keystone Potato Producers Association has announced that after 33 years of dedicated service, Garry Sloik has decided to retire as manager of the organization. Sloik hands over the reins of the association at the end of July to incoming manager Dan Sawatzky, who has been a long-time board member of the association and is a former potato producer in the McGregor area.

New CHC President Elected

Keith Kuhl, a Winkler, Man., potato farmer, is the new president of the Canadian Horticultural Council. Kuhl was elected during the CHC’s annual general meeting held in March in Ottawa. Kuhl owns and operates Southern Manitoba Potato with his two sons and is also chair of the board of directors for Manitoba’s Peak of the Market. He has served as chair of the Potato Committee and Potato Council for nearly nine years and is currently vice-chair of the Horticultural Value Chain Roundtable.

Product News

Herbicide Research Moves Toward Commercialization

Precision technology that will allow reduced herbicide use by accurately identifying and spot-spraying weeds, developed from research funded by the Horticultural Development Company, is going into commercial production. The prototype device features an innovative image analysis-based system for identifying a variety of weeds in row crops, coupled with a choice of two precision spraying modules for directly applying herbicide to either single spots or to small patches of weeds.

Syngenta and DuPont Agree on Technology Exchange

Syngenta and DuPont have announced technology licensing agreements that will broaden each company’s crop protection product portfolio and enable them to bring new products to market more efficiently. Syngenta has obtained a global license from DuPont to develop products containing DuPont’s fungicide oxathiapiprolin. According to the company, the development of this new piperidinyl thiazole isoxazoline class of fungicides represents a significant improvement for growers in the control of diseases in potatoes, vegetables and other specialty crops. Under the agreements, Syngenta receives exclusive rights for foliar and soil uses on all crops in North America and for lawn and garden uses globally.

New Eco-friendly Product for Tackling Potato Rot

A leading British potato business has adopted an environmentally-friendly alternative to chemicals for tackling rots in pre-packed potatoes. Earlier this year, the Branston potato company and biocontrol firm Advanced Pest Solutions won a Scottish Life Science Enterprise Award for their collaborative work in developing this greener alternative. The product is called Biolyse and works by using naturally-occurring bacteriophage — a virus which is parasitic in a bacterium — to destroy the bacteria which cause rots. Alison Blackwell, chief executive with APS, says that the product is proven to work on a large scale in potatoes, with the potential for it to be rolled out to other areas within the food processing industry.

Neogen Launches Quick Test For detection of Rhizoctonia

Neogen maintains it has developed the quickest and easiest method to detect Rhizoctonia spp., a group of fungal pathogens that cause root and stem rots, damping off of young plants and plant loss. According to the company, Neogen’s newly-formatted Rhizoctonia spp. ALERT-LF is the only commercially available lateral flow assay capable of detecting these pathogens.

DuPont Cyazypyr Insecticide Receives PMRA Registration

The Canadian Pest Management Regulatory Agency has granted approval for registration of DuPont’s Cyazypyr insecticide for potato farmers. Cyazypyr is the active ingredient in three new insect control products, each of which have been formulated to provide optimal performance based on their use pattern. According to DuPont, when applied early in the crop life, Cyazypyr can increase the opportunity for improved marketable yield by reducing feeding damage and the impact of insect-vectored diseases.

Business News

Western Polymer Corp. Purchases Maine Starch Facility

Western Polymer Corp. has announced the purchase of the manufacturing plant and equipment of Aroostook Starch Company LLC in Fort Fairfield, Maine. Western Polymer plans to continue processing food-grade potato starch at the Maine location after some upgrades to the plant and equipment. According to the company, the acquisition is the third starch manufacturing site for Western Polymer and will allow it to diversity by broadening its scope of business across the United States.

McCain Finalizes Aquistion of Lutosa

McCain Foods and Belgium-based Pinguin NV have finalized the share purchase agreement of the potato division of Pinguin Lutosa. The agreement encompasses the Lutosa brand, its frozen, chilled and dehydrated potato products, two production facilities and associated resources. The acquisition is seen as a significant growth opportunity to further strengthen the McCain Group’s global position. Lutosa’s brand is positioned on the mid-range segment, complementing the premium market position of McCain’s core business, according to the company. To comply with European competition laws, the Lutosa retail brand in Europe will be licensed to a third party.

P.E.I. Growers Embrace Sustainable Nutrient Management Approach

In recognition of its commitment to sustainability, the Prince Edward Island Potato Board has developed a partnership with the Farming 4R Island initiative. The 4R Nutrient Stewardship approach ensures that nutrients are applied to crops using the right source at the right rate, at the right time and in the right place to protect the soil, water and air. Through this initiative, the Canadian Fertilizer Institute has committed $150,000 in funding over three years to implement the 4R Program.

J.R. Simplot Petitions for GM Potato Deregulation

J.R. Simplot Company has submitted a petition to United States authorities to deregulate a biotech potato variety, known as Innate. This variety has been genetically engineered to decrease production of acrylamide, a potential carcinogen under certain cooking conditions, as well as reduce black spot bruising. The petition claims that the potatoes are unlikely to pose a plant pest risk and thus should not be a regulated article under U.S. Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service regulations.

Industry News

Philippine Market Now Open for Fresh U.S. Potatoes

The Philippines has revised its import requirements to permit the entry of fresh table stock potatoes from the United States. The move comes after four years of work by the National Potato Council and the United States Potato Board to gain access for table potatoes in the Philippines’ market. Prior to this change, only fresh U.S. potatoes destined for processing into potato chips were allowed entry into the Southeast Asian country. Recent economic growth, along with a population approaching 100 million, has propelled demand for imported foods in the Philippines. It became the fastest growing economy in Asia during the first quarter of 2013 with GDP growth at 7.8 per cent.

Indian State Banning Polythylene Packaging 

One of India’s states, Himachal Pradesh, has banned the use of polythene for packaging non-essential edibles, which include snack foods such as potato chips, chewing gum and candies. Foods such as milk and vegetable oils are exempt from the ban, which went into effect July 1. The ban is the first of its kind in the country and is expected to have wider implications for multinational companies which sell snack foods in India.

Scientists Develop CMV Resistant Potato Lines

A team of scientists led by Valentine Otang Ntui from Chiba University in Japan have reported the successful development of genetically engineered potato lines with resistance to certain strains of cucumber mosaic virus through gene silencing. The team used two constructs in the study, both containing a fragment of a gene coding for a defective CMV enzyme. The constructs were used to produce GE potato lines out of a potato cultivar known as Danshaku, which is susceptible to CMV. The resulting lines exhibited 100 per cent resistance to CMV-O and CMV-Y strains. No significant differences in the resistance levels of the lines derived from the two different constructs. Further analysis confirmed that the resistance exhibited by the GE plants were acquired through RNA silencing.

Bacterium Found to Control Rhizoctonia

Diana White, a researcher at the Institute of Biotechnology, National University of Colombia, has discovered a bacterium fungicide against Rhizoctonia, a disease affecting potato crops also known as black scurf or stem canker. A study by White illustrates how a bacterium called IBUN 4P-03 has the potential to be developed as a commercial product that effectively controls the disease. The fungicidal action of this bacterium occurs at the end of its growth stage, when it secretes a substance capable of acting against Rhizoctonia solani, the fungus that causes the disease. This substance, according to White, is known as secondary metabolites. They are very resistant to high temperatures, which also “makes them very attractive for disease control,” says White. The substance penetrates the fungus, affecting its tissues and eventually causing death.

GM Potato Study Begins Second Phase

The Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority (Teagasc) hopes to plant more than 5,000 potato plants in the second phase of its study into the environmental impact of blight-resistant genetically modified potatoes. The agricultural development body began the study last year by planting 48 GM and non-GM potato plants at its Oakpark crops research centre in Carlow, Ireland. The study is part of the European Union-funded Amiga project which has partners in 15 EU states, all involved in research to assess the impact of GM plants on agro-ecosystems. The Teagasc study is looking at the impact of the GM potato on soil microbes such as bacteria, fungi and worms. Its Amiga partners in Germany and the Netherlands will be using the Oakpark site to determine the impact GM planting has had on insects and bumblebees.

New Bio-Control Agent in New Zealand

In seven years, the tomato-potato psyllid has caused major damage in the potato industry in New Zealand. Research conducted by the Bio-Protection Research Centre at New Zealand’s Lincoln University using the southern ladybird as a biological control agent, has shown the predator to be voracious and effective at reducing psyllid numbers on greenhouse potatoes. The first batch of these potent predators — which are capable of consuming up to 100 psyllids over 24 hours — will be released on an organic potato crop in Hororata, N.Z., as research moves from the lab to the field.

Chemical Trickery Explored to help Contain Potato Pest

The pale cyst nematode, Globodera pallida, is a roundworm that if left unchecked burrows into potato roots to feed, obstructing nutrients and causing stunted growth, wilted leaves and other symptoms that can eventually kill the plant. Now, however, the United States Department of Agriculture and co-operating scientists are evaluating new ways to control G. pallida using naturally occurring chemicals called egg-hatching factors.

Genetic Mechanism Allows Potato Cultivation in Northern Latitutes

An international team of scientists headed by Wageningen University in the Netherlands has discovered a genetic mechanism that allows potato plants to develop tubers during the long days of spring and summer in northern latitudes.  The scientists, headed by Wageningen UR Plant Breeding, have published their findings on the gene, allowing the potato to grow and flourish far from its Andean origins, in the scientific journal Nature. The authors describe a variety of mutations in the tuber formation regulator gene which occur in different combinations in modern potato cultivars, giving rise to early, medium and late varieties, depending on the combination of the gene variants present in the tetraploid crop. Knowledge of the genes underlying the mechanism of early development will allow plant breeders to tailor new potato varieties to various geographic locations.

First Study in Potato Using Full Genome

Researchers at the James Hutton Institute, based in the United Kingdom, have used the potato genome to conduct the first genome-wide study utilizing a high-throughput method to describe potato micro-RNAs. The study by the institute, which led efforts to decode the potato genome as part of an international consortium, shows how the genome can be put to use by researchers. Micro-RNAs are important as they form the code which makes genes active or not at the RNA level and can also control traits in the potato like resistance to disease or tuberization. By using a high-throughput method, the researchers were able to identify 150 families of miRNAs in potato, 28 of which were conserved, meaning they can also be found in other species.

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