North America

The future of drones in farming

Data, and the analysis derived from drone flights, is critically important to a farmer. The most common use case of drone derived data and analytics is early weed and disease detection, which protects crop yield and reduces herbicide use. Farmers also look for plant counting analytics, which can increase yield by improving early-season replanting and better predict yields, in the data they are looking for from a drone system.

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COVID-19: Major impact on Idaho seed potato grower

Caribou County farmer Jason Stoddard is one of many Eastern Idaho seed potato growers who have been stuck with lots of spuds that will never be planted due to the COVID-19 crisis. Commercial potato farmers throughout the state have canceled seed orders, having had their contracts with processors scaled back due to lost food service demand amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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COVID-19 crisis: Idaho seed potato growers try to cope with 40 million pounds of unwanted spuds

Caribou County farmer Jason Stoddard is one of many Eastern Idaho seed potato growers who have been stuck with lots of spuds that will never be planted due to the COVID-19 crisis. Commercial potato farmers throughout the state have canceled seed orders, having had their contracts with processors scaled back due to lost food service demand amid the pandemic. Industry officials estimate roughly 40 million pounds of Idaho seed potatoes have gone unsold or been returned to seed growers.

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Perfecting the potato chip

Each time a bag of potato chips is opened in the United States, there is a one in four chance that it’s filled with Michigan-grown potatoes. Michigan is the largest producer of potatoes grown for the potato chip industry in the US, A concerted effort made by industry stakeholders, spearheaded by Michigan State University Extension and MSU AgBioResearch, and coordinated by the Michigan Potato Industry Commission, has built a partnership that is growing the industry.

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Better potatoes post-harvest: Identifying diseases and engaging good management techniques

When the storage doors open and farmers look at their cured potatoes, they are hoping for high-quality spuds that will garner a fair price. Unfortunately, potatoes can be sneaky. Some don’t reveal problems until harvest, or worse, when they are already in storage. Determining which disease is present allows for better management and application of appropriate controls. However, treatments in potatoes vary and there are no silver bullets. Potato diseases work together to exacerbate each other, and pests help to increase disease risk.

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Ag drone company developing fully autonomous spraying and seeding drone

The days of swarming drones in Nebraska skies have just begun. Rantizo — a relatively new player in the drone industry — is upping the game with its crop spraying technologies and bringing competition to the traditional aerial application business. Rantizo has shirked the spot treatment status quo, reaching full field capabilities with one drone covering 14 acres an hour. “Within the next two years, our goal is 100 acres per hour,” said David Pieper, Rantizo director of sales.

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US potato exports begin to slow

The world-wide coronavirus pandemic is impacting U.S. potato exports, as seen in the figures for March, according to Potatoes USA. In a press release issued today, the organization says U.S. exports of frozen potato products were off 12% in March 2020 compared to 2019. Exports of dehydrated potatoes were off 16%, and fresh were off 13% from the previous year.

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COVID-19: President Trump, USDA announce $16 billion in direct support to food producers

President Trump yesterday held a press event at the White House to announce the details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP). The potato industry has advocated for two distinct programs to provide relief to family farms impacted by this crisis. “Over the past two months, the U.S. potato industry has urged USDA to move quickly to help clear product out of the supply chain and support family farmers with direct support,” said NPC President Britt Raybould.

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Why Wisconsin potato farmers could be in trouble

As of now, potato farmers in Wisconsin haven’t been hit too bad by the coronavirus. They’re going to be hit this Fall, according to a report by WHBL Radio. The problem for Wisconsin growers is that a lot of the state’s potatoes have gone to the fresh produce side of the industry. That’s totally fine for now, but once Fall hits and you have the potatoes from the Midwest and the ones coming from the Western states, it’s going to be an issue.

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Canada: Prince Edward Island potato industry wants tomato growers to be ‘good neighbours’

Prince Edward Island’s Department of Agriculture has begun an education campaign to make sure gardeners understand the importance of growing blight-resistant varieties of tomatoes this spring. In 2015, there was a similar education campaign after a new aggressive strain of late blight devastated tomato crops the summer before. The strain, called US 23, primarily attacks tomatoes. But it’s also a concern for the province’s billion-dollar potato industry.

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Leading the battle against nematodes

New weapons in the battle against the pale cyst nematode — a major potato pest that has cost US farmers millions of dollars since it was found in southeast Idaho in 2006 — include an effective bio-fumigant and a surprisingly efficient “trap crop.” Researchers are also making progress in developing PCN-resistant potato varieties. “Understanding the biology allows us to target the weak point in the life cycle,” said University of Idaho Associate Professor Louise-Marie Dandurand, project director of the Globodera Alliance.

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Cavendish Farms slated to receive provincial help in dealing with surplus of processing potatoes

A $4.7 million provincial program developed in conjunction with the Prince Edward Island provincial government and Cavendish Farms should help deal with a surplus of potatoes accumulating in the warehouses of processing growers, says the general manager of the Prince Edward Island Potato Board in Canada. However, there is concern in some quarters about the fact that all of the funds are destined for the processing company. The district director of the National Farmers Union said the deal raises “a lot of red flags.”

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Canada: Potato surplus and halted processing impacts new Alberta crops

In a province that boasts one of the largest potato production regions in Canada, the surplus of potatoes waiting in storage due to COVID-19 is a major issue. Officials say that surplus is now impacting future crops. Potatoes that remain in storage past September will have to be thrown out completely. The Potato Growers of Alberta projects the loss to producers at around $26 million, with another $5 to $6 million loss to seed growers alone.

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Stuck in storage: Canadian processing potato holdings above three-year average

The amount of potatoes in storage for Canada’s processing sector is 4.2 per cent above the three-year average as of May 1, 2020, according to the United Potato Growers of Canada’s (UPGC) latest update. The UPGC attributes the higher numbers to the COVID-19 pandemic which has “had a dramatic effect on french fry sales as sit-down portions of quick service and fast casual restaurants were closed.” The Potato Growers of Alberta estimates about $60 to $70 million worth of processing potatoes are still in storage.

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‘It’s millions of dollars sitting there’: Maine potato industry hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic

With restaurants, cafeterias, fairs, sporting events, and countless other events closed—or just starting to open with fewer seats – Maine potato farmers are feeling the pressure from the coronavirus pandemic. Many farmers are trying to sell the larger potatoes they have in stock to retail stores like Hannaford. Hannaford has seen success with the Maine product in its 183 stores throughout New England. But many farmers are not able to repackage for retail sales.

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Serious, dedicated munchers wanted: Can Canadians eat their way through this french fry surplus?

Would you even recognize the version of yourself from February, 2020? Life changes fast. In a matter of weeks, the coronavirus has pushed most of us into an alternate universe of our lives that, only a couple months ago, would have been unthinkable. Case in point, Canadians might be asked to eat 200 million pounds of French fry potatoes that have already been harvested, but won’t be moving through the usual restaurant supply channels. If Canadians are asked to heroically eat our way out of this fry surplus, can we do it?

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Hard choices: Farm leaders say crop dumping is last resort

The reports of some farmers, ranchers or dairy operations dumping their farm commodities is not easy news to digest. But imagine how the farmer feels? When a producer makes the decision to destroy some of their crop, it is their absolute last resort and they do it with a heavy heart, farm industry leaders say.A lot of producers are donating their crops to food banks and other feeding programs right now but sometimes that isn’t an option due to logistical hurdles or economics, said Pat Kole, director of industry and government relations for the Idaho Potato Commission.

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Quebec family-run potato farm bags 160,000 pounds of spuds by hand during COVID-19 pandemic

Members of the Thomas and Delforge family farm have been forced to bag more than 160,000 pounds of potatoes — by hand. The family farm located in Coteau-du-Lac, a city 40 minutes west of Montreal, is a major producer for regional food suppliers. The economic slowdown caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has lowered demand for potatoes, bringing the industry to a halt. The family produces about 100 to 125 bags a day and sells them for $15 a pouch at a kiosk at the entrance of their farm. So far some 70,000 pounds worth of potatoes have been sold, with another 80,000 remaining.

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Lamb Weston returns part of 2019 crop to growers

Processor Lamb Weston has returned part of the 2019 potato crop to Northwest farmers, according to a report by Capital Press. The company doesn’t have the ability to run all of the 2019 potatoes remaining in storage, said Dale Lathim, executive director of Potato Growers of Washington. About 30% of the potatoes still in growers’ storage has been returned to farmers, Lathim said. He said that’s about 4 million hundredweight of potatoes in Washington.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher

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