North America

Canada: Researchers study the benefits of precision irrigation for potato growers

Researchers in Canada’s Alberta province are studying how potato farmers and their crops could benefit from new irrigation technology. The industry and government supported project “Towards Climate-Robust Irrigation Water Management for Potato Production” is now in the second year of its 4-year run. The project is investigating if precision irrigation can help increase water use efficiency and potato crop yields in Alberta.

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San Luis Valley potato farmers look ahead

Despite 2020 being a difficult year in many respects, San Luis Valley potato growers have been able to raise a very good looking crop this season, reports Rebecca Copley in this article published in The Conejos County Citizen. As farmers get ready to head into harvest, James Ehrlich, Executive Director for the Colorado Potato Administration Committee, shared that it is hopeful. “I think potato farmers have had good prices and demand. People are eating at home. All these signs are good for us. Our crops should be better than last year for sure. It would really surprise me if it wasn’t. Prices are strong. I think we’re set for a pretty good year,” said Ehrlich.

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Strategies for the control of potato mop-top and tobacco rattle viruses

Potato mop-top virus (PMTV) and tobacco rattle virus (TRV) are very different viruses, but the symptoms they cause are virtually identical. In this article, Carrie Huffman Wohleb – Associate Professor at Washington State University – takes a closer look at these viruses and suggests potential control strategies. “Spraing” is an old term used to describe the brown arcs, flecks, or rings in the flesh of tubers that result from potato mop-top or tobacco rattle infection. If you see these symptoms, it’s important to find out which virus you are dealing with, because their management strategies differ.

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MountainKing adds longtime fingerling farmer, packer Cindy Adkins to sales team

MountainKing has added Cindy Adkins, a former owner and operator of the nation’s largest certified organic packer of fingerling potatoes, to its team of sales representatives. Based in Colorado, where she started growing and harvesting fingerlings back in 1997, Adkins will be responsible for helping MountainKing’s retail partners increase sales of the company’s small round varieties and fingerlings. “As a vertically integrated company, MountainKing can compete with any major producer and packing house.” Cindy says.

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Potato LEAF awards Texas A&M’s Jeewan Pandey for research to speed up the development of new varieties

The Potato Leadership, Education and Advancement Foundation (Potato LEAF) is pleased to announce Jeewan Pandey, a third-year graduate student Texas A&M University’s Department of Horticultural Sciences, as the recipient of its 2020-21 Academic Scholarship. Pandey’s research involves the application of DNA-based markers in potato breeding to speed up the development of new varieties that would require fewer pesticide applications.

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Colorado’s Skyline Potato starts 2020 on optimistic note

Just days before his Center, CO, operation kicked off its 2020 San Luis Valley potato season, Skyline Potato Co. General Manager Les Alderete said he was optimistic about the overall market situation and the coming year. “We’re hoping for a decent year,” Alderete said in mid-August, adding that although the summer had been hot and dry, the growing season was good and harvest weather forecasts were also favorable. He did say that water in the San Luis Valley is “tight” after a short snowpack.

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LOCKWOOD/Double L hire Larry Benzel for Columbia Basin Sales

LOCKWOOD Manufacturing has expanded its sales and service reach for customers in the Columbia Basin of Washington and Oregon. Collaborating with Double L, Larry Benzel will represent both companies as the area’s regional salesman. “LOCKWOOD and Double L enjoy a great working relationship and we are proud to work with Double L to better serve the potato growers of the Columbia Basin,” said Dan Birrenkott, president of Crary Industries and LOCKWOOD Manufacturing.

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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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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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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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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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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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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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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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Down history lane: The first Spudnik ‘AirSep’ potato harvester marks the start of a potato equipment success story

Potato growre Matthew Porter approached Spudnik Equipment Company in Idaho in 2010 to see how he can increase the quality and reduce the bruising of the potatoes grown and harvested on his farm in the fertile but rocky soil of Maine. After a year of development efforts, Spudnik’s motivated engineers came up with a new technology and a solution for Matthew’s problem. It was called the ‘AirSep’. After a year of development efforts, Spudnik’s motivated engineers came up with a new technology and a solution for Matthew’s problem. It was called the ‘AirSep’.

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Novel insulation coating material holds promise for potato storages and processing facilities

Advanced Coating Solutions, headquartered in Kirkland, WA in the US produces a thin insulation coating material that works by blocking heat transfer. Instead of using mass to work as a heat sink and absorb heat (fiberglass), the thin insulation coating works like the ‘Low E’ window concept, where thin oxide coatings diffuse infrared radiation. Thin air gaps also provide additional conductive resistance. Founder of Advance Coating Solutions, Richard Stratton is keen to discuss the benefits of his company’s products for potato storages and processing facilities.

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Canada: COVID-19 cases identified at a Simplot potato processing plant

Two employees at a potato processing in Portage la Prairie in Canada’s Manitoba province have tested positive for COVID-19, and 14 are in self-quarantine. On Thursday evening, J.R. Simplot confirmed employees had tested positive for COVID-19 within the Portage la Prairie plant. Josh Jordan, the manager of communications and public relations for Simplot, said the company was notified on Monday that one employee tested positive. He said 12 other employees who had been in contact with the person either in or outside of work, had been identified and tested.

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Young Farmer Podcast: Brandon and Ashley Bonk try new things to diversify and become more efficient

When Brandon and Ashley Bonk see an opportunity to grow their business, they take it. From 2007 to now, they’ve grown their farm in Magnolia, Del., from nothing to 5,500 acres. And while their focus is mostly on corn, soybeans and wheat, potatoes are becoming a bigger part of the business. “Sometimes you gotta stick your neck out and try something nobody else is doing. It’s a measure of risk I guess,” says Brandon, who started the farm with Ashley after graduating from Iowa State University with a degree in ag systems technology.

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Canada’s Alberta potato growers concerned as 2020 harvest gets underway

While the 2020 potato harvest is well underway in southern Alberta, the Potato Growers of Alberta say lingering concerns about global french fry markets due to COVID-19 is putting a bit of a damper on an otherwise joyful time of year for local potato farmers. “The 2019 crop is now complete and done,” says PGA executive director Terence Hochstein. “It has been processed. But due to the COVID situation, not only here in Canada but also in the U.S. and globally, there is no guarantee what we put in the shed this year will be used completely.

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Hot potatoes: Potato varieties suited for climate change

With climate change heating up Canada’s crop land, identifying or developing new potato varieties that can grow in warmer temperatures is on the radar of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) researchers. Xiu-Qing Li of AAFC in Fredericton noticed that warmer summers are creating heat stress in Canadian potato crops. He began studying Canada’s current varieties to see which are the most heat-tolerant. He also hopes to identify the genes responsible for heat tolerance and to incorporate them into future varieties, either through genetic crosses or directional mutation.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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