Latest news stories from around the World

Peter VanderZaag: A Canadian potato producer’s commitment to change and sustainable farming

Peter VanderZaag, a seasoned farmer, has significantly grown his Sunrise Potato Storage business through consistent adaptation and innovation. Investing in new equipment and focusing on soil health and productivity, VanderZaag emphasizes quality and consistency. He believes that excellent crop yield starts with good soil management, quality seeds, and careful crop management during growth. His experience highlights the importance of adaptability and sustainable practices in modern farming.

The complex relationship between soil health and potatoes: Unpacking the Potato Soil Health Project

On Potato-Cast, Carl Rosen, Head of Soil, Water, and Climate at the University of Minnesota, discusses the Potato Soil Health Project. The initiative, ongoing since 2018, explores the intricate relationship between soil health and potato growth, with particular attention to microbial life. Despite fumigation practices that control diseases but harm beneficial microbes, the project aims to promote practices reducing soil-borne diseases without overreliance on fumigation.

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Shaping sustainable farming: Prince Edward Island potato growers embrace slow release fertilizers

New research on Canada’s Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) province has convinced some Island potato farmers to switch over to what are known as “enhanced efficiency fertilizers”, that slowly release nitrogen when plants need it over the course of the season. Potato researcher Steve Watts of Genesis Crop Systems, described the enhanced efficiency fertilizers as giving crops three square meals a day, instead of every meal at breakfast. Watts said there are several different fertilizers that offer enhanced efficiency.

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PCN found for the first time in a potato field in Latvia

A pest never before seen in Latvia – the pale potato cyst nematode (Globodera pallida) – has been identified in a field on a potato farm in the country. Phytosanitary measures have been established for the infected field: a ban on the cultivation of seed potatoes for six years, the cleaning of agricultural tools every time after use, and in those areas where it is possible to eliminate the risk of spreading, the cultivation of plants resistant to pale cyst nematodes.

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Climate crisis? Europe’s potato industry falls victim to extreme weather

Extreme weather events, including droughts and floods, have drastically impacted Europe’s potato industry. Last year’s output decreased by around two million tonnes due to the conditions, causing a surge in prices and depleting UK and Irish stocks. Additionally, planting delays threaten future yields, and these challenges are likely to persist until at least 2024.

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Harnessing tech to boost potato yields: How a Scottish farmer masters potato production

Scottish farmer Matthew Steel uses the Crop4Sight platform to enhance potato yields at his Forfar farm. The tool predicts optimum harvest times, adjusting for crop physiology and market needs. Particularly effective for export crops, Crop4Sight has increased the proportion of saleable tubers by facilitating longer growth periods. The success has led to above-average yields and a strong return on investment, ensuring its continued usage.

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‘War on blight’: FAB project funded again to continue monitoring potato blight in the UK

The James Hutton Institute has received funding to continue the “Fight Against Blight” (FAB) project, which monitors potato crop blight in the UK. The 2023 program will focus on sampling late blight outbreaks and assessing fungicide sensitivity. The BlightSpy tool provides data on weather conditions that could lead to blight, aiding effective management. This work is vital for anticipating new blight strains and informing best practices for blight management.

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Munching on fries in space? Yes, frying potatoes possible in outer space, ESA study reveals

The European Space Agency has supported research on frying potatoes in microgravity conditions, using a carousel-type apparatus on parabolic flights to simulate weightlessness. Despite concerns that lack of gravity might cause cooking issues, results indicate that vapor bubbles detach easily from potato surfaces, suggesting that astronauts could enjoy fried food on future missions.

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Potatoes USA’s reverse trade mission bridges the U.S. potato industry with global buyers

In April 2023, Potatoes USA hosted the Foodservice and Retail Reverse Trade Mission with 75 global stakeholders. Visiting Washington State, participants learned about U.S. potato cultivation, processing, marketing, and export through farm visits, plant tours, educational presentations, networking, and port and retail tours. The event aimed to foster industry relationships and bolster international trade, with participants expressing interest in procuring U.S. potatoes.

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National Fish and Chip Day: Just Eat unveils the UK’s biggest fish and chip lovers

Just Eat data shows the North East is the UK’s top region for fish and chips, with over 50,000 orders this year. Cod is the most popular takeaway fish, and 73% of North East orders are for fish and chips. Across the UK, vinegar is the favourite condiment, especially among over 55s, while 18-34-year-olds prefer ketchup. Fluffy, thick-cut chips are most popular. Fish and chips rank as the seventh most popular UK cuisine on Just Eat, up from eighth in 2022.

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Northern Ireland potato crops being hit by changing weather, potato shortage expected

Changing weather patterns due to climate change have impacted potato growth in Northern Ireland, with insufficient rain and dry conditions causing delays in crop growth, according to Angus Wilson of potato producers Wilson’s Country. The supply shortage has escalated potato prices, affecting consumers and food businesses. 2022 was one of the driest years on record right across Europe. These climatic challenges are coupled with rising fuel and fertiliser costs for growers.

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‘View from the Top’: A conversation with National Potato Council presidents

During Potato Expo 2023, the Eye on Potatoes podcast brought together the National Potato Council’s current, incoming, and immediate past presidents for a live recording where they offered their unique perspectives on the U.S. potato industry, the importance of grower leadership, and having strong associations at the state and national level. Guests included Jared Balcom, Dominic LaJoie, and RJ Andrus.

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Peruvian native potatoes on a quest to conquer new markets

On National Potato Day in Peru, Minister Nelly Paredes reported that processed potato exports have expanded to international markets, including the US, Canada, and Germany. The variety of products made from Peruvian potatoes, such as chips and vodka, is due to small producers’ innovation. In 2022, potato by-product exports reached 6,530 tons, worth $8 million. In Peru, she said, the potato crop is produced by 711,313 families across 19 regions.

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Farmers in Atlantic Canada battling ‘abnormally dry’ conditions, fearing continued drought

Farmers in Atlantic Canada are growing increasingly worried about drought, as many regions on the east coast have been classified as drier than usual for this time of year, with little rain in the forecast, as Creeson Agecoutay reports for CTV News. Greg Donald, potato board general manager for P.E.I., says many potato producers in the province only got a quarter of the rain that they usually get in both April and May.

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Ireland rolls out €3.1 million Investment Aid Scheme for potato producers

Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, announced the start of the 2023 Scheme of Investment Aid for the Seed Potato Sector and Chipping Potato Sector. The €3.1 million initiative, funded by the Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund, aims to strengthen these industries through grants for specialised equipment and facilities. According to McConalogue, “the robust interest we’ve seen underlines the confidence and dedication of Irish seed and chipping potato growers towards this industry’s future.”

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A landmark initiative: The Soil Health Project is helping to shape potato farming of the future

The University of Minnesota’s Soil Health project, a $8 million initiative – the largest in potato industry history – concludes its fifth year, having enhanced understanding of soil health in potato farming. Engaging over 50 academics from 10 institutions, the project set up experiments across seven states, surveyed hundreds of growers, and produced extensive educational materials, including a soil health manual for potato growers. Research methods included experimental research, social- psychological factor investigation, and economic modeling of soil health management.

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China, Pakistan and other Belt and Road countries collaborate to propel potato industry forward

Eleven Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) countries, including China and Pakistan, have launched an international potato industry network in collaboration with several universities and organizations. The network, initiated by Southwest University, aims to improve the quality and efficiency of the potato industry through academic exchange, research, and technology transfer. It will also offer training and resources, including a germplasm resource bank for enhanced potato breeding efforts.

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POTATOPEST: Swedish scientists develop a new model for studying and predicting the impact of late blight on potato crops

Swedish scientists have developed POTATOPEST, a dynamic yield loss simulation model, which integrates a representation of late blight with potato crop growth. Published in Field Crops Research, the model provides valuable data for assessing potato yield losses and managing pest diseases, and could assist in developing more efficient management strategies. This aligns with the UN’s 2030 Agenda, which emphasizes the need for increased food production and reduction of crop pests and diseases, amid challenges like climate change and population growth.

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New era of eco-friendly pesticides: Canada approves field trials for RNAi technology

Renaissance BioScience Corp.’s RNA interference (RNAi) biopesticide technology has gained approval for field study by the Pest Management Research Agency in Canada. The technology targets specific pest genes, providing an eco-friendly alternative to traditional chemical pesticides. Initial priority is given to the Colorado potato beetle, known for its rapid resistance development to chemical pesticides. The company aims to conduct field trials globally. Renaissance also invites partners to develop pest-targeted biopesticides using its RNA technology patent portfolio.

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PepsiCo opens its most sustainable factory in Europe, driving transition towards a circular economy

Today, PepsiCo has unveiled its most sustainable factory in Europe as the industry increasingly recognises the circular economy as a framework to help address global food system challenges. The Polish plant will use new sustainability solutions that demonstrate aspects of a circular economy in action, such as collecting rainwater for reuse and generating its own energy via rooftop solar panels, with the plant set to be climate neutral by 2035.

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Japan won’t accept fresh Idaho potatoes, so U.S. lawmakers are pushing for change

Idaho’s congressional delegation, alongside 31 U.S. lawmakers, is pressing the USDA to urge Japan to purchase fresh American potatoes. Currently, a ban, purportedly to protect local farmers and ensure pest-free imports, prevents sales in Japan, a major market for frozen U.S. potatoes. In the letter to the USDA, lawmakers said Japan has no valid justification for the Japanese market to remain closed to fresh potatoes.

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Saving Michigan’s potatoes: Researchers investigate sustainable solutions to combat early die complex

Michigan’s potato industry is threatened by potato early die complex, causing significant losses. Currently, costly pesticides are the main defense. Michigan State University researchers, however, are trialing a sustainable solution using a blend of compost and manure. The goal is to create an affordable, eco-friendly alternative, reducing the disease’s damage rather than eliminating it entirely.

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Bridging science and practice: From diploid hybrid potato breeding to practical farming

Researchers from Solynta and Wageningen University and Research have published a review on the latest developments in diploid hybrid potato breeding. The study focuses on inbred line development, trait mapping, managing inbreeding depression, and trait introgression. It highlights techniques such as the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and CRISPR-based editing to accelerate trait introgression. The review underscores the importance of translating these scientific findings into practical breeding programs for farmers and end-users.

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Paying the price: Soaring cost of potatoes batters British fish and chip shops

Whether it’s fried, baked or mashed, potatoes have traditionally been a low-cost staple food in the UK – but not any more. A surge in costs is clobbering high street chippies, while in the supermarket, oven chips and the once humble baking potato are casualties of soaring grocery prices, as Zoe Wood reports for The Guardian. According to Andrew Crook, who speaks for the industry as the president of the National Federation of Fish Friers, “People might just shut their shop due to all the other costs as well.”

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‘The secrets within’: How the potato is reshaping the food industry

The potato, a globally prevalent food staple, plays a pivotal role in the food industry and holds untapped potential. As the interest in plant-based products grows, the potato, rich in protein and fiber, proves increasingly valuable. This Food Matters Live podcast, partnering with Royal Avebe, investigates the potato’s journey and its potential contributions to the modern food industry.

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Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse


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