Africa

Innovation in the air: How a visionary in Rwanda is growing potatoes sustainably with aeroponics

A Rwandan entrepreneur is pioneering the use of innovative farming technology that, he believes, is set to play a major role in feeding the growing population in his country, amid increasing pressure on arable land. No soil, barely any water, a controlled environment: for Apollinaire Karegeya, the advantages of aeroponics are clear. The young entrepreneur’s vision and actions are described in a recently published news article by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) of the United Nations. Potato News Today is pleased to republish the article here.

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Sustainability in practice: Nature-friendly farming reduces costs for South African potato farmer

Managing plant health and strict water monitoring have paved the way to success for AL 3 Boerdery in South Africa’s Limpopo province. CT van der Merwe spoke to Lindi Botha of Farmers Weekly about the production practices that keep his farming business profitable. Potato production at AL 3 Boerdery is spread across three provinces to ensure a 10-month supply to the markets. Farms in Limpopo, Mpumalanga and the Northern Cape provide an annual harvest of between 55 000t and 60 000t, and achieve an average yield of 60t/ha.

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Potatoes South Africa’s CEO to leave

Dr. André Jooste, an agricultural economist who joined Potatoes South Africa eight years ago as CEO, is leaving the organization at the end of the month for personal reasons. The chair of the Potatoes South Africa board, JF van der Merwe, lauded him for his ‘exceptionally valuable’ contribution to the organization. Various people in the South African fresh produce industry have expressed their hope that his admired expertise will not be lost to the industry.
The appointment process for a new chief executive officer has commenced.

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Key Technology and Heat and Control form strategic partnership in South Africa and Sub-Saharan

Key Technology, Inc., a member of the Duravant family of operating companies, and Heat and Control Pty Ltd. announce an extension of their existing strategic partnership, supporting customers in Australia, New Zealand and India, to now include the region of South Africa and Sub-Saharan. Under the terms of the agreement, Key has appointed Heat and Control as their exclusive agent in these regions to sell and service Key’s high-performance digital sorters, vibratory conveyors and other automation systems effective immediately.

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Kenya: Potato-legume intercropping can decrease soil erosion, improve moisture retention, boost yields

The potato-growing belts in sub-Saharan Africa have experienced steady increases in heat stress, irregular rainfall, persistent droughts, high soil erosion rates and recurrent floods. Researchers Nyawade Shadrack, Elke Vandamme, Michael Friedmann and Monica Parker report on two potential roles of potato-legume intercropping: (i) improved control of soil erosion to make potato production more sustainable in the highlands; and (ii) optimizing soil temperatures, soil water contents and soil nutrient balance thus enabling potato production in the drier midland agro-food systems.

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‘The future is now’: Kiremko Remote Service starts up new Moroccan french fry line remotely

In a new milestone experience for both Kiremko and Moroccan potato processor Fun Fries, the new french fry line that was installed last summer was eventually started up entirely remotely using augmented reality. When the COVID-19 pandemic prevented Kiremko’s engineers from boarding planes, a door was opened for a highly innovative solution that Kiremko developed: the Kiremko Remote Service. This service uses an advanced headset with camera, sound and monitor, an Internet connection and high-quality technicians on both sides of that connection.

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Why South African potato prices exploded by 140% in just four months

South Africa has seen a massive surge in potato prices in recent months, after an unusually cold winter in Limpopo hurt the early part of the province’s harvest This month, the average market price of a bag of 10kg potatoes in South Africa (across all classes and markets) reached an eyewatering R83. As recently as June, the average price was R34.40, according to data from Potatoes SA. This means an increase of 140% in four months.

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First successful True Potato Seed (TPS) trial of Solynta and Solidaridad in Mozambique shows potential

A first pilot using True Potato Seed (TPS) in Angonia District, Tete province in Mozambique, conducted by Solidaridad and Solynta shows great potential to drastically improve and innovate potato production in Mozambique. The potato crop is increasingly important for nutrition security and farmer livelihoods in Mozambique and many countries in Africa. Between August 2019 and April 2020 Solidaridad Mozambique and Solynta executed the first hybrid TPS field trial ever in Mozambique: growing potatoes from true seeds rather than traditional seed potatoes.

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National Potato Council and Corteva in Kenya to introduce new technologies and train smallholder farmers

The National Potato Council of Kenya and Corteva Agriscience have embarked on plans to increase yield among smallholder farmers from 7 tonnes to 20 tonnes per hectare. The partnership intends to introduce new technologies and train smallholder farmers in Kenya on how to improve potato yields through the use of quality seed, resilient and improved varieties, pest and disease management, post-harvest management, and record-keeping.

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Kenyan scientists develop potato varieties resistant to PCN

Scientists in Kenya have reportedly developed potato varieties that are resistant to potato cyst nematodes (PCN) in what promises to change fortunes of farmers in the country and across Africa, according to a news report by Xinhua. The scientists from the International Institute of Tropical Agriculture (IITA) and the International Centre for Insect Physiology and Ecology (ICIPE) in a statement on Tuesday said besides resistance to PCN, the new varieties are early-maturing.

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Zimbawean government embarks on potato seed production to curb imports

According to a report published by The Herald, the government in Zimbabwe, in cooperation with Kutsaga Research Station in the country has embarked on a potato seed multiplication programme – from mini-tuber to commercial seed potato. This programme was launched in response to a critical shortage of seed potatoes which resulted in the country importing 60 percent of its total requirement, mostly from South Africa.

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PCN: ‘How we’re getting to the root of a global pest threatening potatoes in East Africa’

Despite an increase of 60% in the area of cultivated land, production has been declining from an average of 20 tonnes a hectare to around 9.1 in Rwanda, 8.6 in Kenya and 4.3 in Uganda. This is way below the potential production of 40 tonnes a hectare. The factors contributing to the low and declining yields include losses due to attack by a range of pests and diseases. Potato cyst nematodes (PCN) are the most recent pest threat to emerge in the region. Targeting the nematode during hatching and just before it invades host roots, stands out as the most vulnerable life stage to target for their management.

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Anti-dumping sentiment expressed by the South African potato industry

In a news story published by iAfrica, titled “Urgent Action Needed To Protect SA’s Potato Industry”, it is said that South Africa is a key destination for processed potato product exports from the EU “where there is a history of dumping”. This is set to have a negative impact on the country’s agricultural sector and surrounding communities, according to the news article. André Jooste, CEO of Potatoes South Africa (PSA), is quoted as saying that the local potato industry has already suffered significantly from a decrease in demand as a result of COVID-19 related regulations, such as the closure of restaurants and fast food outlets, restricted trade and movement of informal traders.

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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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Maltese potato donation arrives in Namibia

Erongo governor Neville Andre in Namibia on Friday received twenty refrigerated shipping containers (500 tonnes) with potatoes which Malta sent to Namibia as a donation. The Mediterranean island had an excess stock of potatoes this season, resulting in the donation to Namibia through its government overseas aid programme. This consignment of potatoes will be distributed to approximately 160 000 people in vulnerable communities in Namibia.

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Water already dwindling, Egypt’s farmers fear impact of dam

Years of mismanagement, corruption and increasing population led to the loss of at least 75% of farmland in Second Village in Egypt and the surrounding areas, according to Abdel-Fattah el-Aweidi, head of Gazaer Qouta Agriculture Association, overseeing the area. Now, it is feared that a dam Ethiopia is building on the Blue Nile, the Nile’s main tributary, could add to the severe water shortages already hitting farmers severely if no deal is struck to ensure a continued flow of water.

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Efforts to save East Africa’s potatoes from potato cyst nematodes

Scientists at CGIAR-IITA, working with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) (under the joint Nematology Unit, NemAfrica, based in Nairobi), and their national and international partners have been at the forefront of efforts to address a new emerging pest threat to the production of potato in the East Africa region: potato cyst nematodes (PCN), These destructive pests can cause yield losses of up to 80%, and in some instances, even total crop failure, reports Kilimo News in a recent article.

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Breakthrough in soil analysis: ‘A library for understanding the soils of the world’

A breakthrough in how soils are analyzed, known as soil spectroscopy, is equipping both farmers and government decision-makers with a new tool in combatting land degradation and improving farmers’ crop yields and income. Soil spectroscopy analysis has proven to be faster, cheaper and more precise than conventional testing, giving agricultural producers at all scales vital information on how to improve their soils, in turn boosting crop yields and food production. The technology uses infrared electromagnetic radiation to measure how much energy the soil surface reflects at specific wavelengths, providing what scientists call a spectral signature.

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‘All hail the rise of the climate-smart potato’

The potential of the potato has only just begun to be realized, writes
Sandra Cordon in this article published by Landscape News. Some 368 million metric tons of potatoes were harvested globally in 2019, as people from Vietnam to Kenya, the Peruvian Andes to Rwanda produced a wide variety of the root vegetable, helping feed an estimated 1.3 billion people who rely on them as a staple food. And this is a minimum threshold – potato production is expanding across parts of Africa and Asia.

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Agrico East Africa goes digital – and Kenyan potato farmers love it…

The Agrico East Africa team was working hard the past few months to produce video tutorials on ‘Profitable Potato Farming in Kenya’. They did this in a well-rewarded effort to continue their work of rendering agronomic support to smallholder farmers in Kenya, despite the debilitating COVID-19 restrictions that was imposed on Kenyan citizens during the pandemic. Agrico East Africa (EA), operating as Potato Services Africa Limited, has been working in Kenya since 2015 as a merchant of – Kenyan produced – certified potato seed.

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CIP’s 2019 annual report celebrates a year of discovery, innovation and impact

Technology to accelerate potato breeding in Lima… state of the art tools to diagnose crop diseases in the fields of Uganda… and fresh hearty varieties to boost incomes for smallholder farmers in India. These are just a few of the accomplishments of the International Potato Center (CIP) in 2019, which is commemorating those feats, and others, in its annual report, released this week. The annual report presents compelling snapshots of CIP’s work with 161 partners in 19 countries across Asia, Africa and Latin America, telling stories about relief work with sweetpotato in Mozambique and simple storage innovations that are putting more income in the pockets of Ethiopian farmers.

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Scotts sends first Evolution separator to South Africa following Canadian recommendation

A UK manufacturer of vegetable harvesting and handling machinery has supplied its first to order to South Africa thanks to a recommendation from a Canadian company. Scotts Precision Manufacturing has sent one of its Evolution separators to Bestbier South Africa after Allan Equipment in Canada recommended the unique machine. Designed in Boston, Lincolnshire, the Evolution gently separates vegetables from soil and clod and haulm.

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USAID-supported potato development program in Kenya moves ahead despite COVID-19 crisis

In the last three months (April – June), the potato value chain component of the USAID-supported Accelerated Value Chain Development (AVCD) program has continued implementing field activities, albeit at a slow pace due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Critical field activities such as seed distribution, establishment of learning farms, field crop management, and training of host farmers and farmer group representatives at the learning farms are ongoing though.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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