News August 2020

Opinion: What’s behind the drop in acres in potatoes in the US?

USDA released its report on the number of potato acres planted in 2020. Potato growers planted only 921,000 acres in 2020, more than 47,000 acres fewer than in 2019 and 105,000 acres fewer than in 2018, according to an article published by Carol Miller in Growing Produce recently. It’s the lowest number of acres recorded by USDA in at least 100 years, Carol writes. Both processing and fresh markets are down. To better understand what’s behind the drop, American Vegetable Grower asked Washington State University’s potato specialist, Carrie Wohleb, what’s behind the trend.

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Restrain launches unique online potato storage training course

Restrain offers solutions for the maintenance of low level ethylene gas in potato and onion storages, as well as tomato ripening on the vine. According to John Hutchison, Restrain Manager in the UK, the Restrain sprout inhibition solution is being applied by more than 1.500 growers and other customers in potato storage facilities in 38 countries around the world. A total of more than 1.3 million tonnes of stored potatoes are being treated with the Restrain technology. “This makes Restrain not only a lot cheaper compared to the other alternatives to CIPC, but also more user-friendly,” Hutchison says.

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INTERPOM event postponed until November 2021

Although the Belgian government decided that trade fairs could be organised once again from 1 September 2020 provided they comply with measures as currently applicable to commerce, Kortrijk Xpo and Belgapom have jointly decided to postpone INTERPOM for a year until Sunday 28, Monday 29 and Tuesday 30 November 2021 in Kortrijk Xpo. At the moment, businesses in the potato sector are mainly preoccupied with reorganising themselves as they restart operations.

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AVR and Dacom Farm Intelligence offer field data on a silver platter

For some time now, producer of agricultural machinery AVR has been offering agricultural companies technology for data collection. This data is displayed on the digital platform AVR Connect, offering the farmer improved, real time insights into what is going on inside the machine, how it is operating, and how the process can be made more efficient. This platform has been further developed in collaboration with Dacom Farm Intelligence, allowing for the parcel data to be linked to the machine data, which results in an even more comprehensive overview.

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New Zealand: Submissions open on new potato herbicide Soleto

The Environmental Protection Authority in New Zealand says it is seeking views on an application to import or manufacture Soleto, a broad spectrum herbicide for potatoes. Soleto contains the active ingredient metobromuron, which is approved in Europe but not currently in New Zealand. The applicant, Belchim Crop Protection, wants to import Soleto for the control of broadleaf weeds in potatoes, using ground-based application methods.

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‘Smart Farmer’: An app that assists farmers to keep accurate checks on agricultural machinery

By law, all agriculture vehicles, trailers and machinery require to be properly maintained and fit for purpose. Daily checks must be carried out and a record of these checks should be recorded – traditionally these have been done on paper. Before developing the Smart Farmer app, “I now know exactly what condition each piece of machinery or vehicle is in, who last used it, when it was checked, no matter where I am on the farm and receive an email notification when a issue has been raised,” says app developer, March Skivington. Failing to find an existing solution to meet his needs and after speaking with a number of safety consultants and the Health and Safety, he embarked on developing Smart Farmer. Marc explained.

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Potato blight warnings issued across the UK

Potato blight has raised its ugly head in parts of the UK late in the season, following a spate of turbulent weather, Corteva Agriscience’s field technical manager for potatoes, Craig Chisholm, reportedly received a flurry of calls from growers and advisors on how to protect crops late in the season. Catchy weather may well extend the intervals between spraying blight fungicides, so we are advising growers to use a product that will protect the canopy for 10 days,” he advised.

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US: Washington State potato industry averts worst case scenario during pandemic

Shawn Goggins reports that Washington State’s potato industry has lost $995,000,000 due to the pandemic, but the seemingly stratospheric figure is the better scenario, according Chris Voigt of the Washington Potato Commission. In fact, as of this week, the last of the 600 million potatoes allotted to processing were used up. In addition, another 200 million pounds were also diverted to dehydrated potato products.

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American lawmakers encourage action on potato dispute with Mexico

A group of U.S. Senators is encouraging action to be taken in the potato dispute with Mexico. In a letter sent to Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue and U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer, the lawmakers urged more support for U.S. exports of fresh potatoes. Mexico was the third most important destination for potato exports in the marketing year 2019, valued at $239 million. According to Potatoes USA, the volume of American exports of frozen potato products increased 12 percent to Mexico for the marketing year 2020, after a 20 percent retaliatory tariff resulted in a disappointing 2019.

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France: Pandemic brought uncertainty to potato markets; focus need to be on quality, says UNPT

Covid-19 has shaken up all predictions and profoundly changed the fundamentals of the 2019 campaign in France and the rest of Europe. On the French fresh market, it has meant a revival in terms of household consumption. For the industry, on the other hand, it has caused factories to slow down due to the very sharp decline in restaurant activity all over the world. So says the National Union of French Potato Producers (UNPT) in a recent press release. The organization urges the industry to stay focused on quality products, and not quantity.

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Kooljet: Equipment designed to maintain relative humidity in storages and avoid product weight loss

Relative Humidity (RH) is the measure of the quantity of water vapor in the air at a certain temperature. Maintaining desired pile temperature is important but equally important is to maintain the optimum humidity, explains JD Wasir, Sr. Vice President at Ontario, Canada based Kooljet Refrigeration Systems..“Kooljet Systems helps to maintain high RH levels in the storage facility, and minimizes water loss from the produce, maximizing product quality and value.” JD Wasir notes that Kooljet indeed has a global footprint, and has been assisting farmers since 2001.

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Processing markets in Britain look to the return of education sectors; exports started strongly

Free-buy potato markets in the UK continue to see pressure on prices. Increasingly available supply for markets has met a widespread muted level of demand. Trade has remained on a steady level, consisting of mostly repeat orders. Processing markets have been reported as steady this week, with some better levels of demand for frozen potato products following the government ‘Eat Out to Help Out’ voucher scheme. Processing markets look to the return of education sectors for an increased level of demand in the next few weeks.

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Novel decision support tool under development for preventative in-field potato disease testing

Dr Sarah Sommer and her market research team is working on multiplexed potato virus lateral flow assays at the Newcastle University. The aim is to develop a simple but effective preventative disease testing kit that combines with a smart phone app. Sarah would like to know how the tool can be used in a practical environment and connect with interested potato industry people with whom she can discuss the concept, its further development and eventual application.

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Oyster reef restoration efforts in Florida get help from potato chip byproduct

Longtime work to restore oyster reefs in the Indian River Lagoon has found a new, unusual ally: potato chips. The Coastal and Estuarine Ecology Lab at UCF has been experimenting with various products looking for an effective, biodegradable material for restoration that’s inexpensive. For the past 14 months the group has been testing a mesh made from leftover potato starch collected from chip factories. So far, it’s been a successful method providing habitats for the lagoon’s vital shellfish population.

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‘British potato crops at risk of disease during slower desiccation’, say specialists

Potato growers in the UK are at risk of virus and disease threat if they do not follow an integrated approach to new desiccation regimes, say experts working on the third year of desiccation trials taking place across AHDB Farm Excellence sites. Results and observations at the trial sites have shown that the slower ‘kill’ achieved by the chemical and mechanical alternatives to diquat means that green stems and leaves can still be present up to three weeks after desiccation sprays. Even very small amounts of ‘green material’ remain a viable target for virus-carrying aphids and diseases.

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New Zealand: Health Ministry refuses Covid exemption for potato crisp and biscuit workers

The Ministry of Health is moving to counter criticism that it is using its powers to exempt trucks and workers moving in and out of Auckland to restrict workers going to jobs in potato crisp factories. The chief executive of the Food and Grocery Council, Katherine Rich, is particularly critical that the role of granting the exemption to cross in and out of the Auckland Council region has shifted from the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment to the Ministry of Health.

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Coronavirus reduced Egypt’s potato exports by 25 percent

The head of the Union for Producers and Exporters of Horticultural Crops (UPEHC) Mohamed Heggi announced Saturday that Egypt’s exports of potatoes this year has fallen by 25 percent, due to the coronavirus crisis and its impact on exports in general. Egypt exported 673,000 tons of potatoes this year, falling short of the target for 850,000 tons. He added that potatoes were planted on 408,000 feddans (171,000 ha), with the largest amount cultivated during the winter planting period which saw production reaching three million tons.

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In-depth study looks at the impact of COVID-19 on the potato supply chain in the US

When COVID-19 hit, the dynamics in the food supply chain were catapulted into completely uncharted waters, the team at ClimateAI writes in an article published on Medium. The authors dive deep into one crop that has been front and center throughout the pandemic: the potato. What happens to the supply chain when McDonalds stops producing fries, restaurants around the world are forced to close overnight, and potato chips and table potatoes become retail gold? According to ClimateAI, the case study will help readers build a deep understanding of the impacts that the pandemic sent rippling across the food supply chain.

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‘Grow Your Own Potatoes’ project in Britain a success despite pandemic crisis

Keeping children engaged in the Grow Your Own Potatoes (GYOP) project has been a priority for AHDB Potatoes’ education team, ever since schools closed back in March, not long after planting their potatoes as part of this year’s GYOP project. GYOP was launched in 2004 and since then over 5 million children in Britain have discovered where potatoes come from, how they grow and their health benefits. The value of the programme has been recognised by the general public, and also by the potato and food industry.

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Dry weather, dusty fields growing concern in Maine’s potato country

Potato farmers are worried about their crops as the northern part of the state experiences one of the driest summers on record. In Aroostook County, which is experiencing a severe drought, there has been no heavy rain since before Memorial Day, potentially reducing the yield, said Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board. The dry weather in northern Maine also stretches into New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, two potato-growing Canadian provinces.

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Lay’s introduces potato chip flavors modeled after countries

Lay’s is hoping some new potato chip flavors can partially satisfy some cravings folks may have for the food at some of their favorite travel destinations. Since you can’t hop on a plane, Lay’s is bringing the destination to customers. The four new flavors feature Greece, Thailand, Mexico, and Germany. You can’t just get them in the store: you have to win them. To do so, just reply to one of the company’s social media pages and tell them which country you’d like to visit.

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Latest desiccation research: Reaching skinset depends on a range of factors

You cannot use what’s happening above ground as a guide to what’s happening below, according to new research into alternative desiccants, according to potato specialists at the UK’s AHDB. A key finding from the work is that the rate of potato foliage desiccation does not correlate well with that of skinset, the key to harvesting without damage. The discovery was among the key findings of a project examining the best alternative desiccants to diquat carried out by NIAB CUF on behalf of AHDB.

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Drought hitting Canada’s Maritime farms hard, especially Prince Edward Island potato growers

Maritime farmers are starting to call this summer’s lack of rain “disastrous”. Famous for its potatoes, Prince Edward Island produces over a million kilograms of spuds every year, but this year is different. Over the last three months, some areas of P.E.I. have only received 15 per cent of its usual rainfall. Estimates suggest the harvest will be down 25 per cent — at a minimum. “Put that in perspective,” said Greg Donald, the general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board. “For all the potato farmers in P.E.I., that would be more than a $50 million dollar loss.” But there’s not much they can do to save their season.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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