IssuesFall 2017Industry News

Industry News



B.C. Potatoes on Display

More than 200 people turned out for the annual B.C. Potato & Vegetable Growers’ Association’s Potato Variety Trial at Brent Kelly Farms in East Delta, B.C. on Aug. 30, with seed growers attending from around the province, and from Alberta and P.E.I. Ninety-two varieties were presented to the farming, industry and government potato sectors. The sneak peek gave growers an idea of how some of the newer varieties look, compared to industry standards. The annual trial is the largest potato event in B.C.

Alberta Agriculture Potato Field Day

Alberta Agriculture and Forestry displayed more than 100 bushel baskets of potatoes on Aug. 24, during their annual Potato Field Day at the Crop Diversification Centre South in Brooks. The varieties on display are bred for various uses, including the fresh table market, french fries, potato chips, etc. The various varieties have different traits when it comes to shape and colour, texture and storage properties. The potatoes on display are still at the research stage; the next step is to see how they adapt to different environments. According to Alberta Agriculture potato research specialist Michele Konschuh, industry is seeking all sorts of things, including yield, french fry shape and colour, cold temperature storage, disease resistance and palatability. Varieties with promise are grown in trials, and a short list is then offered to industry for evaluation. After a few years of testing, there is a sealed bid process in which companies can bid exclusively or non-exclusively for the North American or global rights. Alberta’s potato industry is worth about $1 billion annually.

Government of Canada Funds Research

The Government of Canada is funding $895,000 to the East Prince Agri-Environment Association to study the beneficial environmental effects of planting willow trees along river banks, as part of potato growing systems in P.E.I. The East Prince Agri-Environment Association will work with the Kensington North Watersheds Association, the Souris and Area Branch of the PEI Wildlife Federation and Researchers from Dalhousie University on the project, which is expected to break new ground in promoting greenhouse gas (GHG) mitigation in the agriculture industry.

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada Celebrates 150 Years

From planting and digging potatoes to observing insects feeding on plants to learning about coloured spuds, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Fredericton Research and Development Centre opened its doors Aug. 19 in celebration of the 150th anniversary of the department. Close to 400 visitors spent time touring research plots, visiting labs and learning about the science that goes into developing better potatoes. AAFC’s researchers shared their knowledge of genetics, entomology, agronomy, hydrology and measuring carbon dioxide. Josée Owen, associate director of research, development and technology transfer at the centre, says there’s a lot of new science emerging in potato research and the open house was a great opportunity to show the public the diversity of the work that goes into creating a more resilient crop. Disciplines such as bioinformatics computing and agr-environmental resilience are areas the centre is focusing on to develop potatoes that are more efficient, adaptable and environmentally friendly.

Innate Gen 2 Potato Receives Canadian Clearance

Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have completed the food, feed and environmental safety assessments of the J.R. Simplot Company’s second generation of Innate potatoes. The authorizations enable the potatoes to be imported, planted and sold in Canada, complementing the three varieties of Innate first generation potatoes that received regulatory approval last year. CFIA determined these potatoes are “as safe and nutritious as traditional potatoes” for use as livestock feed, and that the potatoes do not present increased risk to the environment when compared to currently cultivated potato varieties in Canada. The second generation of Innate potatoes contains four traits of relevance to potato growers, processors and consumers: protection against the late blight pathogen; reduced bruising and black spot; reduced asparagine, which contributes to reduced acrylamide in cooked potatoes; and lower reducing sugars, which further contributes to reduced acrylamide while enhancing cold storage capability. The traits were achieved using genes from wild and cultivated potatoes to adapt the standard Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet and Atlantic potato varieties.

Dutch company develops new blight-resistant potato

The Dutch company Solynta has developed a potato variety that is resistant to late blight (Phytophthora infestans). The company did this by developing hybrid breeding with elite parent-lines, which allow propagation with true seeds. As a result, breeders were able to crossbreed multiple resistance genes into the potato plant within a two-year period. The potato plants in the test field have two resistance genes, whereas those with a single resistance gene exhibit minor signs of infection. Up to now, farmers have only had one option to save their crop when the plants become infected: spraying heavily and frequently with a chemical pesticide. Resistance to phytophora is just one example of the breakthroughs made possible by hybrid potatoes from true seed, according to Solynta. This new breeding technique for potatoes makes it possible to rapidly introduce better varieties. Not only with natural protection against diseases, but also with improved taste, suitable for organic farming methods, or with an increased nutritional value. Furthermore, these hybrid potatoes can not only be bred multiple times faster than the usual clone bred but also be multiplied very rapidly. From one single plant one can produces about 25 million seeds in a year. In addition, potato seeds can thus be distributed quickly and easily around the whole world. One bag of 25 grams of true-seed replaces 2,500 kilos of seed-potatoes. Richard Visser, chair and head of plant breeding at Wageningen University & Research, said he expects Solynta will need a further four or five years before farmers will be able to grow the new potatoes.

Updated organic potato production guide available

Cornell University has released an updated version of its guide for organic potato production. The 2016 Organic Production and IPM Guide for Potatoes provides an outline of cultural and pest management practices and includes topics that have an impact on improving plant health and reducing pest problems. While the guide is written for a U.S. audience, much of the information can certainly be applied to Canadian organic potato growers’ systems.

$400,000 Grant to Fight Potato Pest

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) committed $400,000 in federal funds to the Federal Golden Nematode Laboratory at Cornell University. The funds, administered through the Agricultural Research Service (ARS), will pay for upgrades to the lab’s facilities and equipment. The lab, a partnership between the USDA and the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences (CALS), maintains a federal quarantine, which protects New York’s potato industry, while also making it safe for New York farmers to ship other vegetables, including soybeans and such root crops as carrots, turnips and beets. New York state approved $1.2 million last year to renovate and modernize the Federal Golden Nematode Laboratory, which helps researchers and farmers stay ahead of nematodes that constantly adapt to control measures. The lab also collaborates with Cornell potato breeders to develop high-quality resistant potato varieties. The facility provides USDA-ARS and Cornell researchers with a biosafe area to address other nematode challenges, such as the soybean cyst that infects the roots of soybeans.


Thomas McDade, Potato Growers of Alberta

Thomas McDade joins the Potato Growers of Alberta as Agricultural Director. McDade was born and raised on the family farm in central Saskatchewan, and is still involved in the farm management. After graduating from business school, McDade worked for several years within the cereal seed treatment industry and in the canola industry in Alberta. McDade has extensive experience with member-based marketing and professional associations.


Josée Owen, Fredericton Research and Development Centre

Josée Owen is the new Associate Director of Research, Development and Technology Transfer at Fredericton Research and Development Centre (FRDC). The veteran science researcher with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada has spent most of her career with the department, leading research and development on integrated vegetable cropping systems. She came to Fredericton in 2013, where she developed a research program focused on integrated potato cropping systems with an emphasis on soil building through rotations, organic carbon amendments and cover cropping. FRDC is putting key infrastructure and resources in place to build its capacity in bioinformatics computing and agri-environmental resilience.


Laura Shannon, Minnesota Potato Breeding Program

Laura Shannon is the new head of the potato breeding and genetics program at the University of Minnesota. Shannon is originally from State College, Pennsylvania where she attended the Friends School and participated in PASA (Pennsylvania Association for Sustainable Agriculture). She graduated from Grinnell College Iowa with Honours in Biology and Anthropology. In collaboration with the International Potato Center (CIP) in Peru, she is working with genotyping data from the Peruvian gene-bank, the largest and most diverse set of potatoes in the world, in order to identify the underlying morphology of genes in Peruvian varieties and to more fully describe potato history and the extent of potato diversity.


Dave Rhodes, Idaho Potato Commission

Dave Rhodes has joined the Idaho Potato Commission (IPC) as Retail Promotion Director-Northeast, based in Indianapolis, Indiana. Rhodes will work with retail produce managers in the northeastern United States and Canada to help drive sales of Idaho potatoes through marketing and promotions, competitive research and point of sale materials, in addition to representing the Idaho potato brand at retail industry trade shows. Rhodes previously was vice president of produce and floral for Indianapolis-based Marsh Supermarkets, a regional retailer with 64 stores. His extensive experience includes working as director of produce for a Northern Michigan supermarket chain, vegetable category manager for a Midwestern distributor, and produce category manager for Marsh Supermarkets.

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