European Potato-Producing Countries Expect Bumper Harvest
The North-Western European Potato Growers, which represents the five leading potato-producing countries in the region (Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain and Holland), has estimated that the total ware potato harvest could be 1.6 million tonnes more than last season, up 6.8 per cent year-on-year. The total NEPG area planted to potatoes is estimated to have increased by 1.3 per cent compared to last season. Total production is provisionally estimated at 25.6 million tonnes, which includes the early harvested crop. The start of the 2011 growing season was dry and unusually warm in northern Europe. All the NEPG countries reported lower than average tuber numbers per plant with tubers that, in some cases, were too large. According to the NEPG, the provisional yield estimate of 47.3 tonnes per hectare is higher than the previous six seasons and is based upon recent trial digs by the various member organizations.
Source: Euro Potato
Potato Psyllid Takes Heavy Toll on New Zealand Growers
Potato growers in New Zealand are feeling the negative effects of a relatively new pest that is spreading across the international potato industry—the potato psyllid. The psyllid, a small plant-feeding insect that transmits the disease, is responsible for causing the dark stripes in infected potatoes that appear across chips after being processed. These unsightly and unmarketable chips are known in the industry as “zebra chips.” The disease also causes leaf yellowing and plant death. In early October, University of Idaho Extension specialists with the College of Agricultural and Life Sciences confirmed that the disease was discovered in Idaho. It was also reported in Oregon and Washington in September.
In New Zealand, the psyllid was first discovered in 2006, and according to a new report from Potatoes New Zealand, growers in that country are out of pocket by $120 million due to damage caused by the pest. Terry Olsen, chairman of Potatoes New Zealand, said it was costing growers by reducing yields, the need for the use of insecticides, extra crop monitoring and management, as well as the downgrading of many potatoes.
Ron Gall, business manager for Potatoes New Zealand, said he was concerned about the effect of the disease on the industry. “Unless we get help to fund research on a solution to this problem, some growers will exit the industry, and processors may have to close their doors,” he said. According to Olsen, the potato industry in New Zealand is on the cusp of a national crisis.
“We know research is fundamental in finding a solution to the psyllid, but our growers’ and processors’ pockets are empty—we need more support from somewhere,” Olsen said. “In total, Potatoes New Zealand has spent or committed about $1.3 million since the beginning of 2008, and quite frankly, we have no more money to spend.”
Olsen also mentioned that the psyllid seemed to have less effect on the South Island’s potato-growing areas. “We need to know why. We should be open about all ideas, because the solution may come from left field.”
Source: Manawatu Standard
Researcher Discovers Bacterium to Curb Blackleg and Wet Rot
A researcher in the Netherlands has made a discovery that could bring hope for the control of two serious potato-related diseases. Robert Czajkowski, who works at the Netherlands Institute of Ecology as well as Wageningen University’s Plant Research International, has discovered how the organism that causes blackleg and wet rot (also called soft rot), the Dickeya bacteria (Erwinia), spreads in the potato plant.
Czajkowski has also discovered an antagonistic bacterium, called Serratia plymuthica, can be used to control the Dickeya bacteria. In greenhouse experiments, Dickeya was rarely, if ever, found on infected tubers in the plant after the use of this antagonist. Like Dickeya, the antagonist penetrates the roots of potato plants and combats the pathogen by producing an antibiotic. Plant Research International has already patented the antagonist and is studying methods to market it.
Dickeya solani was first identified in 2005 in continental Europe, and in less than five years became the predominant cause of blackleg in Europe and the United Kingdom. The disease has been blamed for a five-fold increase in annual losses amounting to €25 million.
Source: Wageningen University
Colombian Growers to Use Aeroponic Technology
Most potato growers in developing countries do not have access to high-quality, disease-free seed because of the high cost of buying or producing the seed, and also because of a lack of knowledge on disease-free seed production. Small-scale farmers in these countries have a particular need in this regard. Over the past number of years a technology known as aeroponics has been developed at the International Potato Center in Peru. Aeroponics is in essence a soil-less method for producing pre-basic potato mini-tubers in greenhouses. This method has been proven to produce higher yields (up to 10 times greater) more quickly and at lower cost than conventional mini-tuber production in soil media.
For several years, researchers and extension agents at the Colombian Corporation for Agricultural Research (Corpoica) have put the aeroponic method to the test on native potato varieties in Colombia. They have found it to be effective in producing disease-free and healthy nuclear mini-tubers, in effect preventing the common soil-borne pathogens usually associated with soil-based mini-tuber production.
Corpoica recently embarked on an ambitious knowledge-transfer project with the aim of teaching the aeroponic method and its application to seed producers in five different districts of Colombia. A total of 28 farmers attended a workshop for several days to be trained in the theory and practical application of aeroponics. According to project leader María del Socorro Ceron, the project is of utmost importance, in view of the fact that one of the most important constraints to potato cultivation in Latin America is the use of low-quality seed. Recent data indicates that producers in Colombia are only planting five per cent of certified seed on average each year.
Corpoica officials have expressed their satisfaction with the outcome of the training session, and believe that most of the farmers who attended will soon apply the aeroponic technology on their farms.
British Potato Recognized as World’s Heaviest
Guinness World Records recently confirmed that a potato grown by an amateur gardener in Nottinghamshire in the United Kingdom was the world’s heaviest. The potato weighed in at 11 pounds (4.99 kilograms) and was grown by Peter Glazebrook, who also held the previous record for a potato weighing eight pounds and four ounces (3.8 kilograms). In an interview with BBC News, he said his success was due to a lot of care and attention. “I only grew nine plants, so I could concentrate on those nine. That’s the secret, just concentrate on a few and give them a long growing season.” Glazebrook has held many world records, including “the longest beet root” and “the heaviest parsnip.”
Source: BBC News