Sustainability

Waitrose signs up to UK’s organic ‘potato pledge’

Waitrose & Partners is set to be the first major retailer to sign up to The UK Robust Potato Pledge, which will see the group move away from the use of copper-based fungicides on organic fresh potatoes in order to combat late blight. According to a report by European Supermarket Magazine, the group aims to achieve this by growing and selling only resistant or ‘robust’ organic fresh potatoes by 2026.

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‘UK Robust Potato Pledge 2021’: Retailers commit to sustainable potatoes

Several key UK retailers have pledged to sell disease resistant organic potatoes, boosting sustainability and farm resilience for producers. Organic certification body the Soil Association developed its ‘UK Robust Potato Pledge 2021’ in a bid to help growers move away from potatoes that are susceptible to blight. Signees to the pledge have agreed to favour organic spuds that have been bred to be blight resistant.

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‘Root Zero’: Carbon neutral potatoes from Puffin Produce a UK first

The home of the much-loved Pembrokeshire potato has added a new iconic product to supermarket shelves with the launch of the UK’s first carbon neutral potato. ‘Root Zero’ planet friendly potatoes are grown in Pembrokeshire by Puffin Produce. The spuds are certified carbon neutral and grown using sustainable farming practices to remove carbon dioxide, create healthy soil and increase local biodiversity.

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HZPC’s new online potato calculator offers potato specialists tailor-made variety choices

HZPC customers are the experts of their own environment. They know which circumstances they are dealing with and which potato characteristics are. HZPC developed an online tool with which customers can easily convert their knowledge and experience into tailor-made solutions – a digital calculator that finds the potato variety that gives the highest yield: the new Even Greener tool.

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Specialist shares views on cover crops, soil health and fertility

On this episode of the SpudChat podcast, Ryan Barrett, Research Coordinator and Project Lead, Agronomy Initiative at the Board talks to Dr. Judith Nyiraneza with Agriculture & Agri-Food Canada in Charlottetown about some of her research projects, including cover cropping, building soil health and fertility through rotation crops, measuring the effect of manure in potato rotations, and more.

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XAG demonstrates potential of fully autonomous drones for potato farmers

Flying into the Andes mountains of Ecuador, XAG Agricultural Drones are recently introduced to a series of on-farm spray trials for high-altitude specialty crops. The demonstrations on potato fields have presented the high potential of fully autonomous drones in reducing labour cost and agricultural pesticide exposure. The agile agricultural drone would be a powerful tool to promote sustainable farming in Ecuador’s 3.2 million hectares of cultivable soil.

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Recyclable and compostable packaging for bite-size potato category

Tasteful Selections recently announced the limited launch of its new 100-percent plastic-free, recyclable and compostable packaging in the US. “This new paper packaging with PaperLock™ technology is a major step forward in sustainable packaging. It offers light protection and natural absorption characteristics that protect our potatoes and help keep plastic out of the waste stream,” said Tim Huffcutt, vice-president, sales and marketing operations.

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Colorado beetle catcher deals with ‘lazy potato pest’

Potato growers and agricultural machine builders in Biddinghuizen in the Netherlands have come up with a way to deal with colorado potato beetles without using pesticides. Infestations by colorado beetles, a North American import, have been increasing in Europe because of rising temperatures. To remove the colorado beetle and its ravenous larvae, all the farmer has to do is to attach a custom built machine with rotating plastic flaps to a tractor and swat them off the plants.

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New Zealand research aims to turn bio-waste such as potato scraps into economic boost

University of Canterbury environmental science professor Brett Robinson in New Zealand is working on a research project that transforms biowaste into high-value products. Waste products from New Zealand’s food processing industry – such as potato scraps and grape skins – could be transformed into high-value soil conditioners and animal feed, according to new research.

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CropX and PepsiCo México to help Latin American potato farmers to improve farm management practices

AgAnalytics company CropX and PepsiCo México expand their collaboration to help PepsiCo’s Mexican potato farmers reduce water and fertilizer consumption, improve soil health, lower greenhouse emissions and improve crop yields. By collaborating with CropX, PepsiCo can now help growers in Latin America improve farm input application efficiency and become environmentally sustainable.

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Food of the future? ‘Food generator’ turns plastic trash into edible protein

Two U.S. scientists have won a 1 million euro ($1.18 million) prize for creating a ‘food generator’ concept that turns plastics into protein. The 2021 Future Insight Prize went to Ting Lu, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Stephen Techtmann, associate professor of biological sciences at Michigan Technological University, for their project. It uses microbes to degrade plastic waste and convert it into food.

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Benefit of cover crops: Covering up weed seeds

Cover crops are not free, but they don’t have to be a cost. In fact, they can save farmers money. Researchers and farmers talked about the benefits during a recent session hosted by the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association in Canada. While there is always variability, weed suppression and population reduction are the chief – though not necessarily only – ways cover crops can better a farm’s bottom line.

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McCain’s Farms of the Future: ‘Mapping out a greener future’

McCain Foods’ Farm of the Future in the Canadian province of New Brunswick seeks to sustain potato production and battle climate change in the years and decades ahead. During its first year, McCain’s Canadian Farm of the Future will seek to incorporate precision agriculture technologies like remote sensing, experimenting with seeding practices and implementing controlled traffic on a field.

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Cover crops: Measuring nitrogen in green manures

Both chemical fertilizers and cover crops can help build the nitrogen content in soil. But cover crops come with many other benefits, like improving soil structure and boosting beneficial microbes. Katherine Muller and her team are working on strategies to measure nitrogen fixation in breeding programs for two common cover crops: crimson clover and hairy vetch.

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Farmer Ambassador: ‘Farmers like me want to join the fight against climate change. But we need help’

Vanessa Kummer is a farmer from Colfax, North Dakota. She is a Farmer Ambassador with Farm Journal Foundation. In a recent article published as a CNN Opinion piece, she writes: The agricultural industry is often misunderstood by the general public, and we haven’t always been credited for being forward thinking on climate change. However today, more farmers recognize the evidence around us and are turning the tide. …To truly move the needle, the government needs to provide more support.”

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Canadian potato growers hope mustard and arugula combo will prevent pests, make soil healthier

New research on Canada’s Prince Edward Island is using mustard and arugula to tackle pest problems in potato fields with a side benefit, farmers hope, of making the soil healthier at the same time. As the CBC’s Nancy Russell reports in this news story, the mustard in the field is called caliente rojo, and is specially bred to have high levels of glucosinolates, a natural component in many pungent plants including mustard, cabbage, and horseradish.

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McCain Australia and New Zealand going green

McCain Foods has released its sustainability strategy that centres on a global commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 50 per cent and move out of coal to renewable electricity by 2030. Agriculture Director for Australia and New Zealand, Rod McLaren, said he was excited the company was going green. “The spotlight has been put squarely on the challenges being posed by climate change and our fragile global food systems,” he said.

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Saving our soil: New microbial technologies that keep soil healthy and us fed

Soil microbes are hard to see and understand, yet we know that they have a significant impact on plant health, your health, and the Earth’s health. New microbial research and technologies are beginning to change how we understand and direct the soil microbiome to increase soil fertility and plant health, which then help our understanding of your microbiome. In an article published by Genetic Literacy Project, Lucy Stitzer discusses four examples of new technologies from specialist companies that make our soil healthier.

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How to fertilise a potato crop: An African experience

Potato yields are highly-dependent on fertilizer use, but pinpointing the amount of fertilizer to be used can be a challenge, especially for smallholder farmers in Africa. This challenge is important in Rwanda where average potato yields are currently 8-10 tonnes per hectare (t/ha), compared to the 25-35 t/ha they might expect with improved potato varieties, better pest and disease management, and enhanced extension services and fertilizer use. 

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‘New plants for carbon farming’: Can breeders actually do it?

As agriculture looks to better farming practices to sequester more carbon, breeders look to make new crops to help, writes SeedWorld’s Joe Funk in this article. “Carbon sequestration”, he says, “it’s a buzzword that’s slowly trickling down into agriculture practices. But how could breeding for carbon farming actually help the industry?”

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Putting waste to work: Bacterial film made from potato processing plants’ waste used to strengthen soils

Washington State University researchers have used granules made from potato processing plants’ waste bacteria to strengthen soil, offering a new alternative to cement additives that are currently used to shore up soils for building and erosion control. The researchers added the granules containing a bacterial slime – called a biofilm – to the soil, allowing a more natural and less carbon-intensive way to strengthen the soils.

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Lay’s is building community soccer fields out of recycled potato chip bags

As the next generation of young soccer whizzes in South Africa breathlessly out-dribble opponents and score mesmerizing free kicks, many of those future Cristiano Ronaldos might already be showcasing those tricks on a pitch made of potato chip bags. Chips processor Lay’s is partnering with its longtime Champions League partner, UEFA, and grassroots soccer organization Streetfootballworld to provide the world’s first five soccer fields made out of potato chip bags.

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