This article profiles John M. Marshall, a pivotal figure in Scotland’s potato industry whose influence spans over six decades. From his innovative family roots to a career in various roles including quality control, market management, and research, Marshall’s journey represents the evolution and challenges of this vital sector. Alongside his professional achievements, Marshall takes active roles in education and advisory, sharing insights on future trends and challenges of the potato industry such as sustainability, changing consumer preferences and post-Brexit trade agreements.
Europe, UK, Ireland
Facing a tough potato season: NFU’s Tim Rooke addresses the crisis and calls for industry cooperation, pragmatism
Tim Rooke, chair of the National Farmers Union’s Potato Policy Group, has reported an exceptionally challenging potato lifting season in the UK, the most challenging in living memory due to high rainfall. These conditions have raised concerns about potential potato shortages. However, Rooke reassures the public that supplies should be sufficient for the festive season. He urged the potato sector to utilize every potato, despite shape or size irregularities, and called for an immediate relaxation in potato specifications.
‘DIGging deep’: Scottish tech firm harvests success at Potato Industry Awards with innovative management platform
Dundee’s Tayfusion wins the ‘Best Innovation – 22/23’ award at the British Potato Industry Awards for its DIG software management platform for potato farming. DIG Potatoes streamlines potato production from growth to sales, offering comprehensive data management. The software, developed with industry collaboration, includes features for stock control, quality control, and forecasting. Founder Mark Mander invites users to explore and demo the platform, showcasing its impact on the potato industry’s efficiency and sustainability.
The Irish potato market is experiencing a unique set of challenges. Retail demand and consumption in Ireland remain strong and are expected to surge further as Christmas approaches, but despite this, the potato farming community faces uncertainties. The yield dig figures for this year reveal a concerning trend for Ireland’s most popular potato varieties, Rooster and Kerr’s Pink. Both varieties have yielded lower than the five-year average. Across Europe, heavier than expected rainfall has significantly disrupted harvesting activities.
The 18th International Berlin Potato Evening, hosted by the German Potato Trade Association (DKHV), is scheduled for February 6, 2024, at Hilton Berlin. Coinciding with Fruit Logistica, this event will attract over 400 experts from trade, agriculture, politics, and science, offering a platform for networking and discussing industry trends and developments. Attendees can look forward to a lively exchange on critical issues impacting the potato sector. Registration for the event is now open.
HarvestEye, originally designed for potatoes, has expanded its capabilities to include onions, offering growers a more advanced harvest monitoring tool. This system, attachable to harvesting or grading equipment, provides detailed insights into crop size, shape, and distribution, aiding in optimal harvest timing for maximum profit. The upgraded HarvestEye 2.0 features enhanced software and hardware for quicker, more precise data collection.
A late blight genotype that is resistant to a second fungicide mode of action continues to spread through Europe, meaning British potato growers will need to take extra care when planning control strategies next year. The Fight Against Blight (FAB) monitoring initiative, which looks for genetic changes in the late blight population and its sensitivity to key fungicides, delivered its latest results at the 2023 British Potato event (BP2023).
France is grappling with a severe farming crisis, as national inflation has dramatically increased potato prices, affecting various potato-based products. The National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) reported a nearly 23% rise in potato prices within a year. The crisis has disrupted the French supply chain, leading to a 50% hike in prices for potato processors buying potatoes from growers. Contracts between growers and manufacturers have become 36% more expensive, with no immediate relief in sight.
The British potato industry is facing a crisis due to COVID-19, the Ukraine conflict, inflation, and weather issues, leading to a significant drop in production. In response, potato suppliers like Wolds Produce are negotiating longer, more flexible contracts with manufacturers. Despite some support from crisp manufacturers, the sector struggles with reduced seed production and the lowest recorded crop yields, signaling potential price increases and industry consolidation ahead.
West European potato production under severe pressure: NEPG highlights extreme weather and seed shortages
Europe’s potato harvest was negatively impacted by heavy rainfall, causing difficulties in harvesting and potential supply shortages in the NEPG countries – Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, and France. Though yields were good, the wet weather left about 1.4 million tonnes unharvested, mainly in the Netherlands and Belgium. NEPG warns of increased risks and costs for farmers, deteriorating potato quality, and escalating market prices. Concerns are also rising over seed availability for the Spring 2024 season due to a reduction in seed production.
The potato market in Europe, including Ireland, is grappling with significant challenges due to adverse weather conditions, despite strong home consumption and retail sales, according to an update from the Irish Farmers Association (IFA). Poor yields and difficult harvesting conditions are widespread, with over 5% of the seed crop in Holland and 20% of the total potato crop still in the ground. Similar issues are prevalent in other major potato-producing countries like Germany, France, and Belgium, where 3.5 to 4 million tonnes of potatoes are yet to be harvested.
A research team in Italy studied acrylamide levels in over 15,000 food samples and found potato-based products and coffee were the top sources of exposure to the potentially carcinogenic compound. The study also revealed that mitigation measures by the European Union have made a significant difference over time, notably decreasing contamination levels. However, it equally emphasized continuous monitoring and strict regulation to maintain these improvements and ensure public health.
BP2023: Evolution Separator and Trinity haulm toppers take center stage amidst challenging weather conditions
Scotts Precision Engineering is set to exhibit at BP2023, showcasing their Evolution Separator and Trinity haulm toppers, addressing challenges in UK agriculture due to bad weather. The Evolution Separator offers enhanced crop cleaning, while the Trinity range ensures efficient haulm topping. Derek Scott, the Managing Director, will present on pre-cleaning harvested potatoes, highlighting the company’s commitment to advancing agricultural technology and supporting farmers in these challenging times.
GB Potatoes, Potato Storage Insight, and SDF Agriculture have initiated the Strategic Potato Stores project to improve potato storage practices. The project, inspired by the SPot Farms model, encourages industry collaboration and practical research. It includes trials with various potato varieties and sprout suppressants, focusing on efficiency and profitability. Key activities include grower meetings, open days, and workshops in 2024, alongside evaluations of PCN-resistant varieties. This initiative emphasizes practical solutions and shared industry knowledge.
The Scottish Farmer reports on the severe impact of wet weather on potato farmers in Scotland. Devastating storms have led to waterlogged fields, causing significant damage to potato crops. This has forced some farmers to abandon their harvests. The situation is causing concerns about the marketability and storage of potatoes, potentially leading to increased prices and reduced availability. Scottish farmers are struggling with the aftermath, questioning their long-term strategies in the face of such recurrent extreme weather events.
The November Synopsis bulletin from Potato Storage Insight (PSI) discusses challenges in potato storage in the UK, particularly due to a difficult harvest with waterlogged fields. It covers managing wet crops, bacterial soft rot, and the importance of quality checks. PSI will attend the BP2023 event in Harrogate and is advancing the SPoT storage initiative, including a December workshop. The bulletin also highlights the role of energy monitoring systems in reducing storage costs. PSI offers detailed advice through the AHDB archive and directly via Adrian Cunnington.
At Agritechnica 2023, Bayer showcased its commitment to digital farming for regenerative agriculture. Highlighting AI and data-driven precision farming, Bayer presented FieldView, a leading digital platform, and new products like FieldView Cab for Android. Their “Magic” series offers advanced field insights. Bayer’s collaboration with Microsoft in developing AgPowered Services and the Azure Data Manager for Agriculture further underscores their commitment to advancing agriculture through technology.
In the UK, heavy rainfall during the potato harvest has led to a significant supply shortage and quality issues, causing prices to soar, writes market analyst Harry Campbell in a news story published by Mintec. The Mintec Benchmark Prices for English white packing potatoes and Maris Piper potatoes have risen sharply. Growers are struggling to fulfill contracts and are cautious about selling, leading to limited market activity. There’s also an increase in lower-quality potatoes unsuitable for long-term storage. This situation is expected to worsen into 2024.
Belpotato details the severe impact of bad weather on Belgium’s potato harvest in a press release. Delayed planting led to a late harvest, with 20-25% of crops still unharvested. Heavy rains caused rotting and quality concerns, particularly in Flanders and Wallonia. The sector is taking measures to mitigate losses and ensure supply, with an emphasis on prompt stakeholder communication and efficient processing of harvestable potatoes. The situation poses challenges for some farmers to meet contractual obligations.
The European Commission plans to extend the use of glyphosate, a controversial chemical herbicide, across the European Union for an additional 10 years. This decision follows the inability of the 27 EU member states to reach a consensus on whether to prolong its use. Glyphosate, a key ingredient in products like Roundup, has been a subject of intense debate over its potential carcinogenic properties and environmental impact. The agroindustry sector says there are no viable alternatives.
Belgium’s West Flanders faces agricultural distress as floods from heavy rains jeopardize the harvest. With 20% of crops unharvested on many farms and fields underwater, farmers confront potential crop loss and market supply issues. Emergency plans are in place, but the future remains uncertain for the region’s potato and vegetable growers, who are already counting their losses and fearing further damage to their livelihoods. “Many are in a hopeless situation,” said Jurgen Duthoo, of Warnez Potatoes.
Irish consumers are increasingly turning to potatoes as a staple food, driving strong retail demand and home consumption, according to the weekly potato market report issued by the Irish Farmers Association (IFA). Unprecedented rainfall and flooding have made this year’s harvest one of the most difficult on record. IFA reports that lifting progress on the European continent has been described as ‘minimal’ again this week and there is still plenty left in the ground.
An article from CPM Magazine discusses the potato storage industry’s adaptation following the withdrawal of chlorpropham (CIPC) as a sprout suppressant. New volatile products like Biox-M, ARGOS , 1,4SIGHT (1,4-dimethylnaphthalene, DMN), and ethylene are now in use. The industry has been learning to use these new products effectively, with a focus on DMN for its strong sprout suppression, especially in warmer stored crops. The article highlights the challenges and adaptations in potato storage, including the importance of maleic hydrazide (MH) in sprout suppression.
The UK’s largest potato supplier, Branston, is exploring a farm-scale net-zero project to enhance efficiency and sustainability in the potato supply chain. This three-year project involves trials like a novel potato pulp fertiliser, nitrogen-fixing biostimulant, and min-till pilots, aiming to reduce carbon emissions while maintaining commercial viability. The project, now in its second year, is conducted by Branston’s field technology manager, Andy Blair, with host farmers David Armstrong and John Stirling in Lincolnshire and Scotland, respectively.