At the Root (Summer 2010)

Product News

Royal MH-30 Xtra Registered in Canada

Royal MH-30 Xtra, marketed by Chemtura AgroSolutions, has received registration for potatoes in Canada. Royal MH-30 Xtra is a plant growth regulator that provides many harvest- and storage-quality benefits for potatoes. “This new product is easy to use and has a wide range of tank-mix options. Royal MH-30 Xtra is proven to reduce shrinkage and improve grade quality in potatoes, as well  s preventing sprouting in storage,” says Kevin Brost, Canadian business manager with Chemtura. Royal MH-30 Xtra can decrease potato shrinkage by up to 15%, and improve grade by reducing the roughness of potatoes. With timely application, the number of undersized potatoes at harvest can  also be substantially reduced. “Growers now have more flexibility in marketing decisions and storage convenience without additional post-harvest costs, while controlling volunteer potatoes in subsequent cropping,” says Brost.

Final Order for Spirotetramat Issued

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has announced that existing stocks of spirotetramat, the active ingredient in Movento, Ultor, and Kontos insecticides, may continue to be distributed and used within normal channels of trade. Based on its review of hundreds of scientific studies, and after considering public comments concerning existing stocks, the EPA reconfirmed its conclusion that there are “no significant risk concerns associated with spirotetramat.” The EPA concluded that “spirotetramat has a more favorable risk profile in terms of human health and the environment than the registered alternatives.”

Correction Notice: A news item appeared in At the Root of the Spring 2010 issue of Spud Smart for the product Voliam Xpress from Syngenta Crop Protection. The article in error omitted that this was a U.S. product registration. Voliam Xpress insecticide is not currently registered for use in Canada.

Business News

New Brunswick to Assist Processor

A kettle chip company in New Brunswick’s  potato belt is receiving a $100,000 loan guarantee from the provincial government. The Covered Bridge Potato Chip Company, located in the St. John River Valley, will use the financial backing to secure 17 jobs, diversify product lines, and expand into new markets. President Ryan Albright said the company has more than tripled production of its oldfashioned russet potato chips since its start-up in January 2009, landing its chip bags in stores across North America.

Spud Spat Over in Manitoba

The potato dispute between local growers and provincial potato regulators in Manitoba came to an end when the two sides reached an agreement on how potatoes can be sold. Peak of the Market and the Potato Coalition of Manitoba agreed potato farmers who grow five acres or less of spuds can sell their potatoes to restaurants and independent retailers without any regulatory restrictions year-round.

Government of Canada Helps Potato Farmers

The Government of Canada is helping New Brunswick potato farmers capture new markets and increase profitability by investing in a new market information database that will help producers make more informed  decisions and capitalize on timely market opportunities. The Potato Market Data Information Gathering and Analyses system will give farmers a stronger bargaining position with buyers by equipping them with updated, real-time information on New Brunswick’s potato acreage, potato varieties planted, storage estimates, prices, and market destinations. The database is expected to be completed by next March.

World Potato Congress to be held in Edinburgh 

The Edinburgh Convention Bureau has announced that the 8th World Potato Congress will be held in Edinburgh, United Kingdom in June 2012. It’s expected that at least 600 potato specialists from around the world will attend the three-day World Potato Congress.

Industry News

U.S. Spud Dumping Could Continue

A four-month review by Canada’s customs agency predicts U.S. potatoes will likely be dumped in British Columbia if seasonal anti-dumping duties don’t remain in place. As has been the case every five years since 1990, the Canada Border Services Agency in late December launched an investigation of its most recent anti-dumping order from September 2005 on U.S. potatoes shipped to British  Columbia. The CBSA said it “has determined that the expiry of the order is likely to result in the continuation or resumption of dumping of the goods,” from the United States. But before the duty can continue on U.S. potatoes, it’s now the Canadian International Trade Tribunal’s turn to run an inquiry to see whether the expiry of the order is “likely to result in injury or retardation to the Canadian industry.” The CITT is scheduled to make that ruling by September 10, 2010.

New Aggressive Potato Blight in Ireland 

Irish scientists have warned farmers to be on alert for a new aggressive strain of potato blight called Pink 6. Stephen Kildea of the Irish Agriculture and Food Development Authority says the new strain could not be  properly controlled by some existing chemicals on the market. “The new strain has been previously found in potato crops in Donegal, Ireland,” he says, adding that scientists did not yet know where it had come from but were more interested in where it was going to spread.

Antitrust Lawsuit Filed Against Potato Groups

An antitrust lawsuit contending Idaho potato growers and others conspired to raise potato prices in the United States by controlling supply has been filed in federal court in Pocatello. The lawsuit, filed last June on behalf of a New York produce wholesaler, asks the court to rule it a class-action lawsuit and award plaintiffs three times their damages, although no dollar figure was given. 

Origians of Potato Germplasm Clarified

A recent study conducted by scientists with the U.S. Agricultural Research Service and cooperators shows the potato germplasm Neo-Tuberosum, used by potato breeders to develop new cultivars, has origins that can be traced to Chile, not to the Andes as previously believed. ARS botanist David Spooner, with the agency’s Vegetable Crop Research Unit in Madison, Wisconsin, and his colleagues at the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru, unexpectedly found Neo-Tuberosum is not a product of strict inter-Andean breeding as previously believed. Instead,  researchers have discovered it is a descendant of the Chilean potato.According to Spooner, the study, which was published in Theoretical and Applied Genetics, will change the way this potato species is viewed by scientists. The discovery will also help researchers gain knowledge of potato classification and identification, and will encourage breeders to reexamine the value of the material from the Andean potato.

ARS Scientists Seek Blight-Resistant Spuds

In Aberdeen, Idaho, Agricultural Research Service scientists Rich Novy and Jonathan Whitworth are taking on the lateblight fungus, Phytophthora infestans. Novy and Whitworth coordinate a unique program to develop new potato lines that resist different biotypes of late blight. Defender, a variety released in 2006 from the program, has helped growers save on fungicides and other expenses associated with controlling late blight, which attacks a crop’s leaves and tubers, rendering the latter unmarketable. Over the next few years, Defender may be joined by another lateblight- resistant variety, depending on how it performs in ongoing trials in Idaho, Oregon, Washington, California, and Texas, says Novy. The tubers are primarily intended for production in the western United States, but requests for releases also originate from other regions of the country, as well as outside of the United States, where some of the same problems occur.

Composting for Soil Health

In a recent published paper, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada research scientist Linnell Edwards shows adding compost to potato fields is clearly the most effective way of improving soil health. Edwards found composting decreases run-off by 15% and sediment loss by 33% while increasing the yield of potatoes. Loss of soil can cost Canadian farmers hundreds of millions of dollars a year. The eight-year study confirms the value of composting, but suggests any move to extend composting at a commercial level will require a move away from traditional methods to accommodate such issues as the storage, handling, and spreading of compost. Researchers have known for some time that the intense tillage associated with potato production can damage soil and lead to erosion.

Seeing Red at the Potato Research Centre

The red-skinned potato is a hot item thanks in part to a consumer and restaurant industry trend toward potatoes that can be eaten with their skins on. The potato industry is looking for red-skinned varieties that do a better job keeping their colour bright when boiled or steamed. Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researchers are responding with a handful of experimental red-skinned varieties for the potato industry to trial at the Potato Research Centre in Fredericton, New Brunswick. In all there are 13 experimental selections this year, nine of them specifically for the table market, a handful of them red skins. The list includes two potatoes suitable for the French fry market and two others aimed at the potato chip market. This year’s roster includes selections developed in both western and eastern Canada. After several years of further testing by industry, the potatoes on display could result in improvements in yield, disease resistance, and storage quality for farmers.

Good News about Fighting Potato Blight

Researchers from the Netherlands have found many resistance genes in wild potatoes and cultivars that can protect the potato against the pathogen Phytophthora. “In total, we have now isolated 24 R-genes,” says Evert Jacobsen of the University of Wageningen, Netherlands. “Among these are genes of different potato species which look different, but are in fact based on the same resistance gene. If this duplication is removed, you will end up with eight to nine different clusters with resistance genes.”

Canada and Panama sign FTA

Recently, Canadian potato growers received a boost to their export market when the country signed a bilateral free trade agreement with Panama, according to a report by the U.S. National Potato Council. Specifically, the FTA gives Canadian frozen potatoes immediate dutyfree access to Panama. Prior to the agreement, Panama imposed a 20% “most favoured nation” tariff on frozen potatoes from Canada, a tariff that continues to apply to the United States. The FTA will also lower other tariffs on Canadian products, and will facilitate trade between the two countries by removing other trade barriers. Currently, the United States exports $3 million in frozen potato products to Panama every year although the lower-priced Canadian fries are likely to displace much of those exports.

Wild Potato Holds Key to Disease Resistance

Breeding for multiple resistance against several fungaldiseases in potatoes is being conducted using wild potato germplasm as the source of resistance. Geneticists Dennis Halterman and Shelley Jansky with the Agricultural Research Service in Madison, Wisconsin, have identified wild potato species that contain resistance genes against late blight, early blight, and Virticillium wilt diseases. The wild potato was crossed with another wild potato that contains resistance to early blight and is currently being used to introduce the resistance genes to cultivated potatoes. In addition, genes for resistance against Virticillium wilt found in Solanum chacoense are also being introduced into the cultivated potato germplasm.

People News

Canadian Scientist to Study Potato Blight in Peru

A New Brunswick potato scientist will travel to Peru this month in an effort to help Canadian tubers fight blight. David De Koeyer, who works at the Potato Research Centre in Fredericton, New Brunswick, is heading to the vegetable’s birthplace in South America to visit the International Potato Center in Lima, Peru. De Koeyer will have 11 months to complete his research among the world’s biggest collection of living potato tissue.

Former World Potato Congress Director Passes

Don Anderson, founding director and secretary-treasurer of World Potato Congress Inc., has passed away. Don was a well-known potato farmer in Prince Edward Island, who grew his diverse agricultural contributions into Hall of Fame credentials. Don was instrumental in nurturing the, then fledgling, World Potato Congress through its formative stages. He served as director and secretary-treasurer of the Congress from 1991 to 2000, when he retired with distinction.