Industry News

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PEOPLE NEWS

P.E.I. Potato Board Elects New Chairman

The Prince Edward Island Potato Board has elected Alex Docherty of Elmwood, P.E.I., as its new chairman of the board, succeeding Gary Linkletter who completed four years as board chair. Docherty and his family own and operate Skyeview Farms Ltd., growing seed and tablestock potatoes. Docherty also represents the seed sector for the Charlottetown District on the PEIPB. The new vice-chairman of the board is Darryl Wallace of Wallace Family Farms in Cascumpec, P.E.I. Wallace represents the processing sector for the West Prince District.

PRODUCT NEWS

Potato and Tomato in One Plant

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 company says since potatoes and tomatoes are fairly closely related, they graft well together. The roots of the TomTato are thin-skinned white potatoes attached to a vine of red cherry tomatoes.

New Size Grade Available for Bulk Potatoes

TOMRA Sorting Food has unveiled its new Modus size grader “which can sort washed potatoes by width and length, or a combination of both,” says Jim Frost, market unit manager whole products sorting at TOMRA Sorting Food. TOMRA offers the Modus as a standalone size grader or integrated with the Halo, Sentinel or Titan II for quality and size grading.

UV Light Bursts for Destroying Seed Potato Pathogens

Britain’s Techneat Engineering has unveiled a new, pulsed ultraviolet 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. 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.

BUSINESS NEWS

Potato Processing Plant Opens in China

ConAgra Foods Inc., has opened its first plant in China, a Lamb Weston potato processing facility in the Chinese city of Shangdu. ConAgra Foods acquired the facility in July when it purchased TaiMei Potato Industries Limited. The acquisition is part of ConAgra Foods’ strategy to grow its international business.

Investment in Food Processing Technology

The Canadian government is investing $713,000 in Ontario-based Martin’s Family Fruit Farm to adapt innovative processing equipment for the slicing and dehydration of fresh vegetables into chips. With this support, Martin’s Family Fruit Farm will build on their expertise in producing dehydrated crispy apple chips to include vegetables. The company will use its processing facility in Elmira, Ont., to develop and pilot test drying on four vegetable varieties, including sweet potatoes, potatoes, carrots and tomatoes. The company will also design and install processing equipment for large-scale production.

Government Invests to Improve Vegetable Produce

The Canadian government is providing $411,627 in funding to Quebec-based Productions en Régie Intégrée du Sud de Montréal (PRISME) to improve the quality and safety of vegetable produce. The investment will help PRISME better identify pests and evaluate produce resistance to fungicide to improve the productivity and profitability of vegetable farms. The investment builds on previous support to one of PRISME’s member associations, Compagnie de recherches Phytodata, of close to $1.2 million to conduct DNA-based monitoring studies for often “invisible” fungal diseases in potatoes, grapes, and greenhouse tomatoes. “We are pleased to be working on the development of new tools that will enable Canadian producers to deal more effectively with two major horticultural problems — crop damage caused by maggots and the development of fungicide resistance,” says Pascal Guérin, PRISME chairman.

INDUSTRY NEWS

Vitamen Treatment for Potatoes Shows Promise

Just like vitamins provide people with a natural immune system boost, researchers are testing whether they could benefit potatoes grown in Oregon in the same way. Specialists at the Hermiston Agricultural Research and Extension Center are researching whether vitamin B1, also known as thiamine, can help potato plants fight off two disease threats to the crop: potato virus Y and zebra chip. “PVY is the No. 1 disease in potatoes,” says plant biologist Aymeric Goyer, one of scientists involved in the project. “It has been here for many years now, and there are new PVY strains that are appearing. It looks like it is going to be here for a while.”

Controlling Obesity with Potato Extract

Researchers at McGill University in Montreal, Que., have found a simple potato extract may limit weight gain from a diet that is high in fat and refined carbohydrates. The benefits of the extract are due to its high concentration of polyphenols, a beneficial chemical component found in fruits and vegetables. “Potatoes have the advantage of being cheap to produce, and they’re already part of the basic diet in many countries,” says Stan Kubow, principal author of the study.

CPMA Launches Half Your Plate Program

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. “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.

China to Position Potato as Staple Food

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 agriculture officials are now trying to increase its profile as a staple food. 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.

Potatoes Contribute to National Security of India

Scientists who attended India’s International Potato Expo 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. He 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.

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Submissions to Industry News are welcome. Email Spud Smart editor Mark Halsall at [email protected]

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