News January 2021

Biological fungicide now available for use on potatoes in Canada

BASF Canada Agricultural Solutions (BASF) recently received Health Canada PMRA label expansion for Serifel. New for the 2021 growing season, Serifel is an innovative biological fungicide with multiple modes of action now available for use on a range of fruiting, leafy, root and cucurbit vegetables, including potatoes. Serifel was previously registered for use in targeting powdery mildew and botrytis in grapes.

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Brexit to ‘revitalise Irelands seed potato sector’

Irelands seed potato sector looks set to get a Brexit shot in the arm. This was one of the key messages delivered courtesy of the second Spring Tillage Webinar, hosted by Teagasc last week. Driving this development will be the fact that Scottish seed can no longer be brought on to the island of Ireland, as a result of post-Brexit phytosanitary regulations imposed by Brussels.

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COVID impact: Potato end-Nov stocks in Britain increase above five year average

Grower held potato stocks in Britain, as at the end of November 2020, are estimated to total 3.27Mt. This is up 12.5% (363Kt) from 2019 and 4.7% (147Kt) to the 5-year average (2015-2019). An increase in GB stocks will be no surprise to many. The 2020/21 season has seen increased production alongside lacklustre demand from the impacts of the ongoing global pandemic. However, the detail shows some sectoral differences.

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Canada: Ontario Potato Webinars to focus on crucial production issues

The program for the 2021 Ontario Potato Webinars on Thursday March 4th is now finalized. According to the organizer, Dr Eugenia Banks, the speakers were selected according to growers requests and they are all outstanding in their fields. The webinars are presented by the Ontario Potato Board and hosted by Potatoes in Canada.

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France backs non-GMO regulation for crop gene-editing in EU

According to a Reuters report, France sees crops developed using gene-editing techniques as different to genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and opposes a European Union court decision to put them under strict GMO regulations, the countrys agriculture minister said. The decision was welcomed by some environmentalists who have long opposed GMOs as a threat to ecosystems, and criticised by seed makers and scientists as penalising Europes agricultural research capacity.

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UK: Argument is boiling up ahead of AHDB potato levy vote

Potato growers and traders in Britain will get the chance next month to vote for or against continuing to pay a statutory levy to AHDB for the tattie sector. The vote on the continuation of the collection of a potato sector levy by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) comes in the midst of a fiercely argued debate between those who think the levy is a waste of money and others who say it pays for the technology future on which the sector is based.

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Late blight is still the biggest threat to Ireland’s potato crop

The same microbe that caused the Great Famine of 1845 continues to pose a biotic risk today. More than 175 years ago it was the root cause of Irelands Great Famine, a period of mass starvation and a cultural watershed during which more than a million people died and a further million left the country. While fungal, bacterial, and viral pathogens continue to shape global societies, there are few plant-specific pathogens that can be regarded as having impacted the world throughout the 19th and 20th centuries in the way Phytophthora infestans has.

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Fire at Washington potato processor hurts already struggling industry

A potato processing plant in the central Washington town of Warden burned down in a dramatic overnight fire Thursday. By early Friday morning, emergency responders had evacuated nearly a third of the homes near the plant. The plant was one of two dehydrated potato processing plants in the state, used to dry potatoes too ugly, small or large to sell to consumers. Those spuds instead end up in processed foods like instant mashed potatoes. The plant’s owner is Frank Tiegs, a giant in the Northwest potato industry.

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NEPG announces organisational and leadership changes

The North-Western Potato Growers (NEPG) kicked 2021 off with an announcement that several organisational and leadership changes came into effect on the 1st of January. NEPG says that it started the year without representation from Britain. Victor Phaff from the Netherlands stepped down as NEPG secretary at end of December 2020 and is currently replaced by Daniel Ryckmans from Belgium.

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The AsiaBlight Network looks to the future

As in many potato-growing parts of the world, late blight disease stifles production and earnings. In China, the story is no different as smallholder potato farmers lose millions of tons of potato and hundreds of millions of dollars annually in potential income due to this pathogens effects. To improve farming practices and technologies to overcome this challenge, the CIP-China Center for Asia Pacific (CCCAP) organized the 4th annual AsiaBlight meeting in Shandong last month.

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The CEO of HZPC explains how he is making his company more sustainable

HZPC’s CEO, Gerard Backx says: “What we can contribute are new varieties that can help to improve environmental impact in the future. We try to develop different disease resistances to make sure that our potatoes can be grown without or with a very reduced amount of pesticides. Of course, yield is important too, because if you can produce more product on the same amount of land with the same amount of energy, then you are more sustainable.”

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Teaching tomorrow’s producers and consumers: Grow Your Own Potatoes Programme to continue in 2021

Now in its 16th year, the Grow Your Own Potatoes Programme (GYOP) is an AHDB educational initiative that helps children in Britain learn more about where their food comes from, how it grows and the role potatoes play in a healthy, balanced diet. Since it began, it has delivered positive messages about potatoes to more than five million primary school children nationwide. AHDB announced yesterday the programme will go ahead as planned in 2021 with the support of the potato industry.

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World Potato Congress webinar: Aeroponics for nuclear seed potato production in the spotlight

The World Potato Congress will present its next webinar on Thursday, February 18, 2021 with Dr. Peter VanderZaag, a potato farmer in Canada and, due to COVID-19, now an “armchair consultant” involved with numerous potato projects in Asia and Africa. Dr. VanderZaag’s presentation will be entitled: Aeroponics for nuclear seed potato production: history, status, and challenges. It will primarily focus on the development of the technology in China over the last 14 years. Dr. VanderZaag will share some of the major successes and failures of minituber tuber production with aeroponics.

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Boost in sales and profits for Scotland’s Albert Bartlett

One of Scotlands best-known potato companies, Albert Bartlett, enjoyed a boost in sales and profits last year. Accounts for Albert Bartlett Holdings Limited, which runs the popular Albert Bartlett potato brand, reveal a 14% increase in turnover to 199.985 million for the year to May 31 2020. In his report, the companys sole director Ronnie Bartlett said the trading performance had been satisfactory.

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Canada’s potato growers now have new chemical weapon against early blight

Previously registered in several vegetable crops, Syngenta’s Miravis Duo can now help potato growers safeguard quality and yield against early blight, in addition to several other costly diseases. Depending on their geography, potato growers can expect to make multiple in-season applications of a fungicide specifically targeting early blight, according to Syngenta. With every application of Miravis Duo, growers can also control brown spot while protecting against Botrytis and white mould.

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Novel research by Australian farmers to turn waste into biohydrogen fuel and fertiliser

Trials to turn waste from potato farms into fertiliser and energy are underway in regional Victoria in a bid to be environmentally friendly and lower the costs for farmers. Jane McNaughton and Steve Martin of ABC Ballarat reports on this research and development project based in Mollongghip, between Ballarat and Daylesford, that aims to convert agricultural waste, known as biomass, into hydrogen.

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The potato market: Understand your breakeven point

The potato market is notoriously volatile with huge yearly peaks and troughs. The volatile nature of potato pricing is, to some extent, related to the weather which is rather unpredictable. This is more so relevant in potatoes than most other UK crops because of the domestic nature of potato markets with very little global trade. This makes it hard to plan long-term profitability. So says Alex Cook, AHDB Analyst Potatoes & Cereals and Oilseeds, in this article.

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The new DOWNS CropVision: ‘A new generation optical grader for unwashed potatoes’

This past Tuesday, January 12, saw the launch of the new DOWNS CropVision – a machine that manufacturer Dubrulle DOWNS calls “the new generation optical grader for unwashed potatoes”. Dubrulle DOWNS is a manufacturer of handling and storage solutions for potatoes based in France. The DOWNS CropVision is fitted with the latest technological innovations that allows for high- speed and high-quality mechanical grading of unwashed potatoes before it enters storage – at a rate of up to 100 tons/h.

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Buoyant retail sales of US potatoes reported

Record potato retail sales continued from October to December 2020, the second quarter of Potatoes USAs marketing year 2021. The industry body says in a press release that all three months saw an increase in both dollar and volume sales, with the largest growth in December. Total store potato sales grew 9.3% in volume and 12.3% in value. Prices also increased for consumers by 2.7%, which contributed to the 12.3% increase in dollar sales.

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GRIMME boosts planters with new features

GRIMME announces that several new features were added to its GL 420 and GL 430 four-row cup planters, as well as the GB 430 belt planter. These include single-row on/off switching; further protection against soil erosion with the new TerraProtect system; and an operator friendly planter-and-tractor coupling system.

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The future of crop protection? GM plant grows insect sex pheromones as alternative to crop pesticides

Scientists have discovered how to genetically modify the camelina plant to produce pheromone precursors that can control agricultural insect pests without the use of pesticides. Revolutionary research is being done by ISCA, Inc., a green agricultural technology company based in Riverside, Calif., in collaboration with Lund University in Sweden. ISCA says pheromone controls are the future of crop protection.

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The new potato range from Linwood Crops: Sold for ‘Purpose and Taste’

Due to how potato varieties can perform so differently at different times of the season, Linwood Crops in the UK says it does not sell its potato varieties by variety as such (unless requested), but rather by the ‘best available for purpose’, as well as for consistency – and ultimately taste on the day, and at whatever stage of the season, the company says. This Unique Selling Point (USP) puts Linwood’s Chefs Taste brand in a class above any others and is receiving a fantastic amount of interest, according to Linwood.

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Processing potato producers in France to receive financial aid for losses due to COVID-19

The French Ministry of Agriculture this week announced that potato producers who had to allocate processing potatoes to outlets other than for the process sector due to the pandemic will financially be compensated for losses incurred. Producers have until February 2 to apply online. The news site Terres et Territoires reports that ‘good things come to those who wait for it’. After six months of waiting, potato producers will finally be compensated “for the losses resulting from diverting unprocessed potatoes to other outlets, in the context of the health crisis associated with the Covid-19 pandemic”.

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The British entrepreneur who ‘turned potatoes into gold twice’

William Chase is not your average farmer. The Herefordshire-born 60-year-old has gone from bankruptcy to making millions by turning potatoes into crisps and vodka, and is now hoping to make a fortune from apples, reports Hannah Uttley in an exclusive article published by The Telegraph. Chase is now building his Willys Wellness brand, which produces gut health products such as apple cider vinegar and kombucha.

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EU Exit Perspectives: British seed potato sector needs rapid resolution

In this weeks blog, AHDBs head of export trade development for potatoes, Patrick Hughes, examines the issues around gaining third country listed status for seed potatoes and what the industry might do if a resolution is not reached. The news that ware potatoes have been awarded third country listed status and trade into the EU and Northern Ireland will continue is welcome. Unfortunately, the EU also confirmed they will not accept the case for a permanent change to the prohibition on seed potatoes.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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