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Considered one of the major breakthroughs in agricultural research and innovation, aeroponics could open up a world of opportunities for potato growers in Bhutan. Mostly cultivated in high-altitude areas between 1,500 and 3,000 metres above sea level, the potato is among the most important cash crops in the Himalayan nation.

Aeroponics is a closed or semi-closed system for growing plants in an air or moist environment without the use of soil or an aggregate medium. Under the system, a precise and timely supply of nutrients is delivered directly to plant roots through timer-controlled sprays.

Bhutan’s National Potato Program and National Seed Centre started an aeroponics unit in April 2012 as a part of its efforts to produce potato mini-tubers under a revamped seed potato production system. The World Bank is funding the initiative through the Decentralized Rural Development Project.

The aeroponics technique is seen by some as a panacea for diverse problems faced in potato cultivation, ranging from poor seed quality, low production yields and lack of quality planting materials. It also has the potential to make seed potato production more efficient by eliminating some generations of multiplication compared to conventional methods. This, in turn, can also result in substantially lower costs.

Aeroponics being looked at as new way to grow seed potatoes in the Himalayas.

Aeroponics technology has been successfully adopted by farmers in China, and it’s hoped that this new and innovative technique will benefit potato farmers in nearby Butan by reducing costs and increasing yields.

At the International Potato Centre’s (CIP) Huancayo aeroponic facility in Peru, about 100 tubers have been produced per plant. Yields for aeroponic seeds were also found to be the same as that of conventional seed tubers. CIP is promoting this technology to the farmers in the Andes as well as tropical regions of Africa.

Source: The Bhutanese


Scientists in Kazakhstan have developed a new variety of potato, which they claim has the same health benefits as broccoli. This new breed is the result of eight years of development and is being called a “dietary” potato.

The result of selective breeding with wild, South American potatoes, the new variety has been specially adapted for northern climates. There are plans to begin selling the new potato throughout markets in the former Soviet Union soon, with the aim of eventually expanding exports internationally.



The Chinese government is extending its anti-dumping duties on potato starch imported from the European Union for another five years. The duty rates will range from 12.6 per cent to 56.7 per cent, according to a statement from China’s Ministry of Commerce.

The ministry’s statement acknowledges there is a possibility of further dumping by EU producers and the Chinese domestic industry would be harmed if the duties were scrapped. China first imposed anti-dumping duties on imported potato starch from the EU in 2007, with the duties lasting for five years. After the duties expired, the Chinese government launched a review of its anti-dumping measures in February, 2012, at the request of the China Starch Industry Association.

Potato starch is widely used in the food industry in China to make such products as emulsifiers and instant noodles.

Source: People’s Daily Online


DuPont has announced the launch of a web-based pest management tool aimed at providing information to help optimize the use of pesticides in high value crops. The company’s Evalio AgroSystems is an integrated pest management tool for detecting problem insects. According to DuPont, growers using the system are provided with real-time, in-season information that helps them choose the most appropriate product and spray timing to achieve optimum pest control and maximize yield and quality.

Successfully piloted in tomato crops since 2010, the Evalio system uses a network of traps on farms that capture adult insect pests before they start to reproduce. The data from these traps is used to provide early warning messages delivered to growers via SMS, fax, or email. Data is provided for key pests afflicting potatoes, tomatoes, lettuce, cotton and corn, such as Tuta absoluta, Helicoverpa armigera and Spodoptera spp.

System developer Giuseppe Ceparano says that it has the potential to reduce the total number of sprays applied to a crop by improving the timing of application and spraying only when problem pests are present. “The growers who used Evalio during the pilot period reported increased yields, better quality produce and less in-field waste,” says Giuseppe. “A significant benefit of applying pesticides only when pests are present, rather than on a calendar basis, is that growers can adopt control strategies with improved environmental fit.”

Evalio AgroSystems is a free service for growers, advisers, processors and dealers. Registered users receive a warning report weekly—more frequently during key insect flight periods—and have access to the latest news and updates published on the system’s crop-specific website.

Source: DuPont corporate website


When a pathogen attacks a plant, infection usually follows after the plant’s immune system is compromised. A team of researchers at the University of California, Riverside, has focused on Phytophthora, the pathogen that triggered the infamous Irish Famine of the 19th century, and has successfully deciphered how it succeeded in crippling the potato plant’s immune system.

The genus Phytophthora contains many notorious pathogens of crops. Phytophthora infestans, for example, causes worldwide potato crop losses of more than USD$6 billion each year, while Phytophthora sojae is responsible for soybean crop losses of about USD$2 billion each year.

The researchers, led by Wenbo Ma, an associate professor of plant pathology and microbiology, have been studying a class of essential virulence proteins produced by a broad range of pathogens, including Phytophthora, called effectors. The effectors are delivered to, and function only in, the cells of the host plants attacked by the pathogens. The researchers found that Phytophthora effectors blocked the RNA silencing pathways in their host plants (such as potato, tomato, and soybean), resulting first in a suppression of host immunity and then an increase in the plants’ susceptibility to disease.

“Phytophthora has evolved a way to break the immunity of its host plants,” Ma explains. “Its effectors are the first example of proteins produced by eukaryotic pathogens—nucleated single- or multi-cellular organisms—that promote infection by suppressing the host RNA silencing process. Our work shows that RNA silencing suppression is a common strategy used by a variety of pathogens—viruses, bacteria and Phytophthora—to cause disease, and shows, too, that RNA silencing is an important battleground during infection by pathogens across kingdoms.”

When RNA silencing is impaired by effectors, the plant is more susceptible to disease. Basic RNA silencing processes serve as a major defence mechanism against viruses in plants and invertebrates. RNA silencing has also been implicated in anti-bacterial plant defence. The discovery by Ma’s lab is the first to show that RNA silencing regulates plant defence against eukaryotic pathogens.

“Phytophthora effectors have a motif or signature—a specific protein code—that allows the proteins to be delivered into host cells,” Ma says. “A similar motif is found in effectors of animal parasites, such as the malaria pathogen Plasmodium, suggesting an evolutionarily conserved means for delivering effectors that affect host immunity.”

The next step for researchers at the University of California is to screen other pathogens and identify their effectors’ direct targets, so that strategies for controlling diseases caused by the pathogens can be developed.

Source: University of California, Riverside

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