IssuesFall 2013World Review

World Review

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MOZAMBIQUE

Mozambique’s Agricultural Research Institute (IIAM) is developing new varieties of sweet potato that reportedly are more nutritious and can withstand drought and provide better yields than the types currently grown in the country. Sweet potato is the third most important crop for small farmers in Mozambique, after maize and cassava.

Funding for the project comes from the Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa, and follows many years of research into a higher-yielding sweet potato by IIAM. Previous varieties produced yields of up to eight tonnes per hectare, but researchers are excited about the prospect of yields almost double that.

“Under the project financed by AGRA, we are looking at nine varieties of orange-fleshed sweet potato that have better drought resistance and an increased yield of 15 tonnes per hectare,” says IIAM’s Jose Ricardo.

Source: allafrica.com

UNITED KINGDON

Britain’s Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, in conjunction with the Scottish government, has awarded £3 million in research funding to four projects to improve food security for some of the world’s most valuable crops. The four projects focus on potato and onion, but the findings could have applications for a wide range of crops.

This is the first round of awards from BBSRC’s Horticulture and Potato Initiative, which supports high-quality, industrially relevant research projects on horticulture crops. Academic researchers are brought together with industry stakeholders to devise ways to deliver larger yields of better quality fruits and vegetables through more sustainable farming practices.

“With a growing world population predicted to reach nine billion people by 2050, this research looking at maximizing yields and minimizing losses will advance knowledge and benefit U.K. and world-wide potato producers, thus contributing to an important U.K. economic sector and helping us towards achieving global food security,” says Celia Caulcott, director of innovation and skills at BBSRC.

Source: BBSRC

INDIA

The Central Potato Research Institute in Shimla, India, has developed a new technology to prevent the conversion of starch into glucose in low-temperature conditions, such as cold storages. Glucose levels in tubers can increase substantially in low temperatures, reducing the shelf life of potatoes and rendering them inedible for diabetic patients.

CPRI is filing a patent for this technology, which according to institute director Bir Pal Singh “raises the hope for potatoes without sugar being available in markets, something which may bring smiles on the faces of the potato-loving diabetic patients.

“Starch in potatoes turns into sugar and this process is accelerated by an enzyme called invertase,” Singh says. “We have silenced this process, in fact stopped it, so that the sugar levels don’t increase in potatoes.”

Source: Deccan Herald

AUSTRALIA

Potato growers in the Australian state of Victoria will face fewer quarantine restrictions when selling their potatoes interstate. The state government has announced that growers who have not had their crops infected by potato cyst nematode will no longer need routine PCN surveys of their crops.

According to Peter Walsh, Victoria’s agriculture and food security minister, the new regulations will be in place before this season’s harvest. They will enable more than 300 farmers in that state to sell potatoes throughout Australia, apart from Western Australia, without PCN certification.

“To help the [Victorian potato] industry to grow further, the department of environment and primary industries has worked tirelessly to implement a new regulatory model that places fewer restrictions on growers, while still protecting the industry from threat of disease,” says Walsh. “The new regulatory model will save the Victorian potato industry about $48,000 a year in reduced soil testing alone.”

Walsh said the government had also set a goal of doubling production levels by 2030 through innovation and research.

“This is a good news story that supports enforcing good farming practice using certified seed,” says Frank Rovers, chair of the Victorian Potato Growers Council.

Source: The Courier

LEBANON 

The European Union has granted Lebanon the right to export 50,000 tons of potatoes, reversing a decade-long prohibition of Lebanese tuber shipments into Europe.

Farmers in the country’s Bekaa Valley and Akkar regions will be able to export potatoes under several conditions outlined in the August decision by the EU, according to Lebanese agriculture ministry officials.

According to Agriculture Minister Hussein Hajj Hasan, the decision was the result of a program to improve production quality, funded by the Italian government, and followed years of negotiations with EU authorities. He says Lebanon had been on the blacklist for potato exports to Europe since the publication of a report confirming the presence of brown rot disease in the 1960s.

EU ambassador Angelina Eichhorst called it “an important decision because it acknowledges efforts by Lebanese authorities, particularly the agriculture ministry.”

Source: The Daily Star