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AHDB’s ‘Strategic Potato Farm Scotland’ looks for sustainable solutions for the seed industry

AHDB’s new host SPot farmer in Scotland, seed potato producer, Jim Reid, from Milton of Mathers farm, St Cyrus, north of Montrose, is aiming to find sustainable solutions for the seed potato industry. Eric Anderson from Scottish Agronomy and Colin Herron from McCain will work alongside Jim and AHDB to support the project over the next four years. McCain has been involved with Scotland’s seed potato industry for more than 30 years.

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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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More potential for early potatoes in Europe due to increased private consumption

As a staple food with a long shelf life, potatoes are currently among the favourites on consumers’ shopping lists. The potato market in Germany and throughout Europe is benefiting from this. On the other hand, sales in the catering trade have slumped sharply due to the closure – especially processed potato products are suffering as a result. Valentin Beckmann, from Maurer Parat LLC, in Germany answered questions about the potato market.

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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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‘To move crops in unprecedented times’: The COVID impact on Idaho potato farmers

With COVID-19 closures in place all across the United States, and even the world, restaurant demand for potatoes has fallen. According to Frank Muir, CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission, 60% of Idaho potatoes go to restaurants. “We’re trying to move crops in unprecedented times,” Muir said. “Prices were strong but they’ve been dipping. We can’t replace 60% of the food service loss.”

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New blight strain threat: Late blight control strategies will have to change in Britain this season

Late Blight control strategies in the United Kingdom will have to change this season if potato growers are to combat the spread of a new aggressive, fungicide-insensitive/ resistant strain of the disease, leading agronomy firm Hutchinsons says. The dark green 37_A2 form of Phytopthora infestans has quickly spread across Europe, reaching England two years ago when five cases were reported. The new strain is at least, if not more, aggressive than the dominant blue 13 and pink 6, but the crucial difference is that it appears equally aggressive on foliar and tuber blight.

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Farming solutions pioneers announced partnership with world-class potato producer

Angus based precision farming solutions pioneers SoilEssentials have announced a new partnership with Elveden, a world-class producer and purveyor of local and regional food excellence. SoilEssentials and Elveden are proud to be working together using Tuberzone and Tuberzone CropCast to better manage potato crops for optimum size distribution and crop value, so reducing food waste. The Tuberzone suite of applications use data and not physical inputs to improve potato crops, and so are an environmental win-win.

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Potatoes New Zealand gearing up to achieve zero emissions goal

Potatoes New Zealand is seeking funding from the Ministry for Primary Industries for a nationwide project to transition crop production to more sustainable land management. In February Potatoes NZ adopted a new strategic objective of zero net emissions by 2050. It is now one of three central objectives for the sector including doubling export value by 2025 and increasing domestic value by 50% by 2025.

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Wisconsin potato growers not completely fried by the coronavirus

While many potato growers across the nation are being forced to mash their spuds into the ground, Wisconsin’s spud producers aren’t feeling as hard a hit from COVID-19 as their western counterparts. In big western potato producing states like Idaho, Washington and Oregon where the growing season is a month or two ahead of Wisconsin, some growers had to make the difficult decision to disc some fields of potatoes under. “It hasn’t been a huge problem in Wisconsin, but what is looming ahead is a flooding of the fresh market,” said Tamas Houlihan, executive director of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association.

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Lamb Weston reports 4 coronavirus cases among employees at Oregon facility

Lamb Weston has reported four cases of COVID-19 among its employees in Boardman. Three of the cases at the company’s Boardman facilities were reported in mid-April and one early this month, health officials said. “In each of the four cases in Boardman, we are confident we took the right measures for our team members’ safety,” said spokesperson Shelby Stoolman.

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Stepping up to the plate: European Commission adopts market stabilisation measures in the potato sector to counter COVID-19 impact

The European Commission (EC) on May 4 announced the adoption of exceptional derogations from EU competition rules to allow certain types of cooperation in the potato sector, as well as for milk and milk products, and also live plants and flowers. This is part of a wider package to support the agri-food industry during the ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

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New British-made camera detects crop disease quickly

A new camera that will detect crop disease quickly and at a significantly lower cost has been developed by British researchers. The technology could potentially save farmers worldwide thousands of pounds in lost produce, while increasing crop yields. The camera will cost less than £1,000 – about a tenth of the cost of the crop cameras currently on the market.

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‘Road to a million pounds’ – Washington Potato Growers to host largest potato giveaway to date

Washington Potato Growers are “On the Road to a Million Pounds of Potatoes” with plans to host their largest potato giveaway to date this Thursday, May 14. Approximately 200,000 pounds of potatoes will be available for giveaway in the Tacoma Dome parking lots. More than 320,000 pounds of potatoes have been distributed so far. Food banks can also make arrangements with the Potato Commission to pick up a pallet for their local locations.

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Potato scout training in Canada goes virtual for 2020 season

Every year, Dr Eugenia Banks, potato specialist with the Ontario Potato Board hosts a training day on how to scout potato fields. This year, in response to COVID-19, the training session is being brought online into a three-part webinar series. On May 21 and May 28, Potatoes in Canada, with support from BASF, will host three webinars on scouting best practices for diseases, pests and physiological disorders in potatoes.

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Report: Heavy potato imports by Ukraine; strong Russian exports to neighbouring countries

In a recent report released by Russian based Fruit-Inform, a produce market information company, commercial potato growers in the Ukraine did not report significant losses occurred during the 2019 growing season. However, small-scale garden producers suffered severely reduced yields on average. These smallholder growers is an important part of the potato production infrastructure in the Ukraine. Fruit-Inform further reports that Russian potato production has significantly grown during the autumn of 2019.

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GroPro provides a biological crop protection solution for control of nematodes in potatoes

While the usage of many chemical crop protection products to control nematodes on potato are getting more prohibitive for numerous reasons, many farmers are turning to biological products because they are usually proven to be safe, efficient and economical to use. US based GroPro has a proven track record of delivering natural and organic products. One of GROPRO’s flagship products is Vigilance Nematicide, the companies’ answer to farmers’ need for effective and safe bio-based nematode control solutions, and yet still being able to attain high yields and good quality.

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Canada’s Alberta potato growers ‘unlikely to benefit’ from govt COVID-19 funding

Recent funding announcements from the provincial and federal governments will do very little to help local potato farmers, says Potato Growers of Alberta executive director Terence Hochstein. The province’s announcement on Thursday it would be increasing AgriStability payouts to help potato growers will not benefit the vast majority of producers, says Hochstein, because most are not eligible for AgriStabilty in any event, especially those who farm on irrigated acres and produce crops other than potatoes.

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US potato industry waiting and watching for COVID-19 relief

The potato industry needs more help than what the government has given so far, Kam Quarles believes. He spoke to The Packer’s Tom Karst on May 7. The shutdown of the foodservice sector related to shelter at home mandates has had sudden and severe consequences for growers, he said. The lack of movement at processors has backed up the supply chain and created damage to growers of seed, processed and fresh potatoes.

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Dry weather will require weed kill re-think for Scottish potato farmers

Managing weed control programmes in potatoes could be tricky this year, given the continued dry weather. Dry weather can hamper the activity of residual herbicides, while a lack of soil moisture will also slow the emergence of many key problem weeds until later in the season. However, some of the sneakier ones may grow from depth earlier, unimpeded by a dry and disrupted herbicide layer. This means growers are going to have to choose a robust post-emergence herbicide to tackle weeds when they emerge, said Craig Chisholm, field technical manager for Corteva Agriscience.

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US potato farmers reduce planting as demand plummets during pandemic

Potato farmers in the US plan to plant fewer spuds this year after demand for America’s most popular vegetable has plummeted during the coronavirus pandemic. Early estimates show potato acres down about 10 percent, said Blair Richardson, CEO of Denver-based Potatoes USA, a potato marketing organization. But even with that reduction, industry leaders fear farmers will be unable to sell all their harvest come fall. More than $1 billion worth of potatoes is “backed up” in the processing system, Those are potatoes processors would have sold this spring, but couldn’t.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher

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