North America

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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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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Buoyant retail sales of US potatoes reported

Record potato retail sales continued from October to December 2020, the second quarter of Potatoes USA’s 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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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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PepsiCo doubles down on climate goal and pledges net-zero emissions by 2040

PepsiCo, Inc. today announced plans to more than double its science-based climate goal, targeting a reduction of absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across its value chain by more than 40% by 2030. In addition, the company has pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040, one decade earlier than called for in the Paris Agreement. Specifically, PepsiCo plans to reduce absolute GHG emissions across its direct operations by 75% and its indirect value chain by 40% by 2030. This action is expected to result in the equivalent of taking more than five million cars off the road for a full year.

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New rules for Idaho PCN field quarantines

U.S. officials have released a new plan involving methods to deal with pale cyst nematode discovered in 2006 in some southeastern Idaho potato fields. The U.S. Department of Agriculture released the final rule that takes effect at the end of January. It sets out years-long criteria for killing off the pests and reopening quarantined fields to production. The new rule follows a 2018 court decision in a lawsuit filed by potato farmers that found the U.S. government illegally quarantined some Idaho potato fields.

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Taco Bell’s potatoes are coming back

Last year, Taco Bell cut a number of items from its menu, including two dishes that featured its seasoned potato bites: Cheesy Fiesta Potatoes and the Spicy Potato Soft Taco. Those two items will be back in restaurants on March 11, the chain announced on Thursday. Rumors of potatoes getting axed started to swirl last summer after a Reddit user, identified as a verified employee, said potatoes were leaving the menu. Taco Bell soon confirmed the news, leading to a stream of dismay online.

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Potato early dying disease in the spotlight at Canadian Potato Summit

Potato early dying disease, also known as Verticillium wilt, results in early potato maturity and can limit yield by as much as 50 per cent. What can Canadian growers do to protect their spuds? Mario Tenuta and Dmytro Yevtushenko of the Canadian Potato Early Dying Network (CanPEDNet) will share research updates on this disease during the upcoming Canadian Potato Summit on February 3.

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Farm Credit Council CEO Talks ag policy at Potato Expo

The first day of the 2021 Potato Expo brought farm policy discussions and a look at the farm financial situation. Farm Credit Council CEO Todd Van Hoose told attendees farmer borrower stress is starting to stabilize. “The rally in the commodity markets and getting past some of the worst parts of the pandemic are starting to show. In addition, a whole lot of government money went into farmer’s pockets,” said Van Hoose. “Right now, we’re in relatively good times, but farm leverage is increasing.”

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Webinar: Global climate change and potato storages

The World Potato Congress (WPC Inc) is pleased to present its next webinar on January 14, 2021 with Todd Forbush, long-time engineer with Techmark, Inc. Todd’s presentation is titled: “The impact of climate change on removing energy from a potato storage with an ambient air ventilation system”. Todd will inform participants about ambient air potato storage ventilation systems relying on cool outside air to remove energy from the potato storage resulting from both field heat and potato respiration.

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Canada: Potato growers and researchers collaborate to implement sustainable farming practices

The Living Laboratories Initiative is a four-year research partnership between Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), farmers and environmental organizations, where research is co-developed and managed on farms to produce farming practices tailored to local environments. Launched in 2019, the Atlantic site – located in Prince Edward Island (PEI) – is the first-of-its-kind in Canada. Research at Living Lab – Atlantic is addressing several key areas impacting potato producers in PEI, including soil health, water quality management and crop productivity.

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Potato LEAF reaches inaugural fundraising goal of $2 million

The Potato Leadership, Education, and Advancement Foundation (Potato LEAF) today announced it has achieved its inaugural fundraising goal of $2 million for 2020. Launched at Potato Expo 2020 in Las Vegas, Potato LEAF was created to provide tools, training, and support necessary to develop growers and industry members as leaders. “We challenged the industry with an ambitious goal, and we couldn’t be more appreciative of the response, particularly during an incredibly uncertain year,” said Potato LEAF Board Member Gregg Halverson.

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US agriculture industry bets on carbon as a new ‘cash crop’

US farmers make their living raising crops from the soil each year. Now, some are getting paid for putting something back into their fields: carbon. In an article published by the Wall Street Journal, correspondent Jacob Bunge writes that big agriculture companies including Bayer AG , Nutrien Ltd. and Cargill Inc. are jockeying with startups to encourage crop producers to adopt climate-friendly practices and develop farming-driven carbon markets.

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Virtual Potato Expo 2021 ready for big crowd

The first-ever digital Potato Expo is on tap for Jan. 5-7 and the event has plenty to offer the industry, National Potato Council leaders say. Registration for the 2021 Potato Expo event is available online. Earlier this month, the Packer’s Tom Karst visited with Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council and Hollee Alexander, vice president of industry relations and events for the council.

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The recyclable packaging trend: PepsiCo’s partnership with bioplastics manufacturer Danimer Scientific

PepsiCo joined forces with Danimer Scientific several years ago with the goal to develop sustainable flexible packaging, Danimer says in a news release published on its website. According to the release, Danimer Scientific developed biobased compostable packaging for PepsiCo’s snack brands in the past. The new initiative is said to be “right in line with PepsiCo’s announced strategy to make all of its packaging recoverable or recyclable.”

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Dietary Guidelines for Americans: ‘Make every bite count with potatoes’

Potatoes help support the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommendation for increased nutrient-dense vegetable consumption. Says John Toaspern, Potatoes USA Chief Marketing Officer: “It’s official: the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans have yet again confirmed the importance of eating more vegetables such as potatoes that provide potassium and vitamin C. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations focus on increased nutrient-dense vegetable consumption.

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Idaho farmers look ahead after roller-coaster year

COVID-19 has “scrambled” the outlook for potato growers, said economist Bruce Huffaker, who is president of North American Potato Market News, Inc. Huffaker believes the potato market has made up a great deal of ground following the COVID-19 hit, and demand should be relatively strong looking ahead. Between April and June, global trade in french fries declined by 30%. It’s been recovering since then, Huffaker said. “One of the challenges we are seeing still is while global trade is only down 2.8%, North American exports are still running 15% behind last year’s pace,” Huffaker said.

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Potato sales and utilization in the US: The ‘what’, ‘where’, and ‘how much’ answered

John Toaspern, Chief Marketing Officer at Potatoes USA provides insight from this year’s Sales and Utilization study of US potatoes. “With everything that has occurred this past marketing year, it is very important for us to understand what has happened with the sales of potatoes in the US market and how the crop was utilized based on an analysis of potatoes and products sold at retail and food service and accounting for the volume of US exports and imports,” Toasperm says.

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The puzzle of non-host resistance: Why do pathogens harm some plants but not others?

People have puzzled for years why pathogen Phytophthora infestans causes the devastating late blight disease on potatoes, but has no effect at all on plants like apple or cucumber. How are apple trees and cucumber plants able to completely shake off this devastating pathogen? Agricultural scientists have wondered for years: if this resistance is so complete and persists over so many generations, is there some way we could transfer it to susceptible plants and thereby stop the disease?

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Bangladesh to import blight resistant GMO varieties developed at Michigan State University

Thousands of farmers in Bangladesh grow potatoes on over one million acres of land, spending up to a fourth of their investment on fungicide sprays to fight late blight. The disease damages 20 percent of the total potato production in the country. The Bangladeshi government has finally allowed its scientists to import two blight resistant (RB) potato varieties, developed at the Michigan State University (MSU), and agreed that field trials can be conducted with the varieties.

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Canadian Potato Summit – 2021

The Canadian Potato Summit is a yearly update for what’s happening in the Canadian potato industry, hosted by Potatoes in Canada magazine. Join industry members and growers in a virtual format to stay updated on research, industry projects and the latest field insights. The organizers say the interactive event will arm participants with tools and information they need to kick off a successful growing season. The schedule and sessions as these stand now are published below.

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‘FarmHer’: A unique online voice for women involved in agriculture

FarmHer began after founder and host, Marji Guyler-Alaniz, took a leap of faith, starting a passion project in 2013 with a mission of shining a light on the women of agriculture. Today the business consists of various entities, all shining a light on women in agriculture. FarmHer has featured over 350 women and creates a diverse set of media offerings, including photography, television, YouTube videos, written word, and podcasts. Each month, over a million people interact and/or experience the brand’s presence in their lives.

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Smart farming: The growing role of precision agriculture and biotech

Farming has always involved risk. Risk of pestilence, water shortages or excess, and weather events are only a few of the conditions affecting successful crop growth. Applied nutrients and crop protectors help plants thrive but can result in environmental harm. Given sustainability concerns, growing tomorrow’s food supply is even more fraught with challenges. The good news is that agricultural technology designed to address this growing need is booming. Smart farming technologies are gaining steam, with innovations ranging from seed breeding to seed feeding to the ability to monitor crops and conditions in real time.

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Food technology expert: New Maine potato varieties ‘have much lower levels of acrylamide than Russet Burbank’

Food technology and human nutrition specialist at the University of Maine, Professor Mary Ellen Camire, has some good news about french fries. Those made with the new potato varieties AF4296-3 and Easton have much lower levels of the probable carcinogen acrylamide than those made with the popular Russet Burbank variety. Camire, conducted a pilot study in this regard with colleagues, including Gregory Porter, who heads the UMaine potato breeding and variety development program.

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Market analyst: ‘Global French fry trade might not recover until 2022’

Exactly a year ago, potatoes were seeing tight supplies and solid demand and it was expected that pricing would be strong in 2020. Then came Covid-19. Bruce Huffaker, President of North American Potato Market News, says: “It’s been a very big challenge for the industry and for people in general.” 2020 has been the first year since 2003 that the global French fry trade has been in decline compared with the previous year, and while it won’t be able to recover this trend in 2021, it might be able to get back there in 2022, says Huffaker.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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