The Irish Farmers Association reports severe challenges in potato harvesting in Ireland and the UK due to excessive rainfall. Many areas have exceeded average annual rainfall, hindering harvest and increasing frost damage risk. In Ireland, heavy rains have exposed crops to frost, threatening significant losses. A few hard frosts at this point will wipe out entire crops. In the UK, particularly in the Midlands and northwards, several growers are facing the daunting task of lifting over 500 acres of potatoes.
Europe, UK, Ireland
The World Potato Congress Inc. (WPC) welcomes Douglas Harley and Derek Roulston as International Advisors. Harley, from Alexander Harley Seeds Ltd. in the UK, brings extensive experience in potato breeding and global export. Roulston, with a background in farming and development in Africa, contributes deep knowledge in potato seed production and international consulting. Their expertise is expected to greatly benefit the WPC, especially in the lead-up to the 12th Congress in Adelaide in 2024.
The UK potato farming sector, worth approximately £4.5 billion, is threatened by potato cyst nematodes (PCN), particularly in Scotland where 77% of Great Britain’s seed potatoes are produced. Dr. James Price of The James Hutton Institute, managing the Scottish PCN Working Group, highlights in the GB PCN Forum Newsletter the challenges posed by PCN, including drastic yield reductions and difficulties in control. Scottish legislation prohibits growing seed potatoes in PCN-infected land, yet PCN affects nearly 21,000 ha in Scotland.
The National Fish and Chip Awards have announced the top 20 contenders for the Takeaway of the Year title, narrowing down from an initial 40 after a stringent evaluation process. These shops have demonstrated excellence in sustainability, product knowledge, and business practices. The winner will be revealed at the awards ceremony in London on February 28, 2024, celebrating the best of the UK’s beloved fish and chip takeaways.
At the Food Systems Transformation symposium, experts highlighted the urgent need for a strategic overhaul of global food security methods. The event, hosted by Agrico and SeedNL, emphasized the importance of sustainable, inclusive food systems and the role of strategic policy in leveraging food as a geopolitical asset. Discussions covered the necessity of local focus, innovation, and multi-stakeholder cooperation, with a special mention of Africa’s challenges in value addition due to trade laws.
Agricultural machinery manufacturer AVR is set to open a new branch in Uetze, Germany, ahead of its 175th anniversary. The new subsidiary will provide prompt assistance to German customers and dealers, and will serve as a strategic base for the company. The location, in a key cultivation area with good transport links, will combine commercial, technical, and logistic functions. The move is part of AVR’s ongoing investment in the German market, one of the most important potato producing countries in Europe.
AKP Group, a leading UK potato supply chain specialist, has acquired Wolds Produce, enhancing its operations in the crisping, chipping, and seed potato sectors. This strategic move aims to consolidate expertise, foster innovation, and build a robust supply chain to navigate the challenges of reduced grower numbers, rising costs, and climate volatility. The partnership promises uninterrupted service and growth opportunities for the UK potato industry, with both companies maintaining their commitment to quality and efficiency.
This year’s potato harvest in Switzerland is expected to drop by a third due to unfavorable weather conditions and pests, leading to a shortfall of 100,000 tonnes, particularly affecting processed products like chips. The Swiss Potato Growers’ Association warns of “above-average losses” unseen before. The Zweifel crisps factory is now importing 15%-18% more potatoes than usual to meet its requirements.
Royal HZPC Group is set to revolutionize potato research with a new universal variety set for academic institutions, launching on November 3, 2023. Available from January 1, 2024, within the EU, this set offers diverse in vitro plantlets to expedite research. It embodies Royal HZPC’s commitment to sustainable potato breeding and global food supply, inviting collaboration to advance knowledge and improve crop understanding. More information is available at www.hzpc.com/96.
According to the latest FIWAP/PCA market report. the European potato harvest is lagging due to colder tubers making drying difficult. Belgium has 15-20% left to harvest, with varying percentages across Europe. The average potato yield is slightly down from last season but above the five-year average. On the futures market, potato prices remained stable, but the harvest delay and weather are causing market tensions in the European market, while North America is facing an oversupply.
The UK potato industry has formed the CIPC Residues Monitoring Group (CRMG) to monitor chlorpropham (CIPC) residues in potatoes from stores previously using CIPC, now banned. The CRMG, led by Adrian Cunnington, seeks industry-wide cooperation to provide data to the Health & Safety Executive, ensuring continued safe use of these stores. The Group will act in the interests of the whole of the UK potato industry to ensure that the data submitted meets the standards expected by CRD. The group aims to maintain the temporary Maximum Residue Level for CIPC.
The 2023 potato harvest in Ireland is facing severe challenges, with 60% unharvested due to flooding. Sean Ryan of the IFA reports substantial losses, worsened by heavy rains washing away protective clay and leaving crops vulnerable to frost. The season’s delay, caused by late planting and slow maturation, has led to a reverse harvesting strategy, prioritizing dry fields. With more rain expected, financial support may be necessary for growers’ survival.
AI-based sorting technology: TOMRA Food wins international FoodTec award for foreign material identification
TOMRA Food has been awarded a silver International FoodTec Award for its AI-powered Foreign Material Identification system, which enhances food safety and processing efficiency. The system uses deep learning and cloud technology to improve sorting and grading accuracy in the food industry, particularly for potatoes. The technology allows for better decision-making in sorting, higher recovery of good products, and more precise grading. Integrated with TOMRA Insight, it provides actionable data for process optimization and performance enhancement.
Amidst thriving retail demand for potatoes in Ireland, the harvest season faces severe setbacks due to heavy rainfall and flooding. Over 60% of crops remain unharvested, with significant losses already reported. The UK faces similar challenges, halting harvest activities. While market demand remains steady, exports to the Canary Islands are under scrutiny, with shipments rejected due to excessive soil content. The potato industry in both regions braces for further challenges.
Researchers at the UK National Robotarium, School of Engineering and Physical Sciences, Heriot-Watt University in Edinburgh conducted a study to review global developments in potato harvesting, with a focus on mechatronics, the use of intelligent systems, and the opportunities presented by Internet of Things (IoT) applications. Fernando Auat Cheein and Ciaran Miceal Johnson report on their study in a scientific paper published in the journal Frontiers in Plant Science.
At the foot of the Badaling Great Wall in Beijing, British scientist Philip Kear is cultivating disease-resistant potatoes within the greenhouse of the China Center for Asia and the Pacific (CCCAP) of the International Potato Center (CIP). Kear aims to enhance potato productivity in China and globally. The initiative also seeks to identify genes resistant to various diseases, fostering international cooperation to combat challenges like potato late blight.
Dewulf is set to showcase its latest agricultural machinery at the Agritechnica event in Hanover, Germany. Highlighting a blend of traditional expertise and innovative technology, the lineup includes the Enduro harvester, MB 34 box filler, the Certa 40 Integral planting solution, and the P3K Profi, a 1-row mounted top lifting harvester. With features like adjustable cleaning modules, Soil-Saver technology, and the unique ‘Gearbox Drive’, Dewulf aims to revolutionize the harvesting experience for farmers.
The UK Centre for Ecology & Hydrology introduces the E-Planner, a free tool designed to guide farmers in sustainable land decisions. In a video discussion, Marek Nowakowski and developer John Redhead explore the app’s capabilities, from identifying optimal habitats for wildlife conservation to using heat maps for environmental actions. Aiming to merge profitable agriculture with wildlife preservation, the E-Planner offers a promising step towards a greener farming future.
Mixed fortunes: Ireland and UK potato harvesting faces delays, Belgium and France report promising yields
The Irish Farmers Association reports a rise in potato sales in Ireland due to current weather conditions. However, these conditions have halted harvesting and caused flooding. This has raised concerns about potential losses in the crop yield. The UK faces similar challenges. Particularly affected are the later planted, late maturing varieties like Markies. In contrast, Belgium and France see good yields, with France’s up by 10.2%. Holland faces quality issues, while Germany deals with storage breakdowns.
Potato crisis in Switzerland: Poor harvests lead to increased imports, many growers consider quitting
Switzerland is facing a significant potato shortage due to consecutive poor harvests, leading many growers to contemplate exiting the potato cultivation business. The extreme weather fluctuations, from high heat to excessive rainfall, have adversely affected the yield, especially the varieties used for French fries and crisps. This marks the third consecutive year of poor harvests, with 2021 being too wet and 2022 too dry. There’s a deficit of around 100,000 tonnes of potatoes, prompting factories like Zweifel crisps to import a larger portion of their potato requirements from abroad.
The UK potato industry is under threat from wireworms. A surge in risk factors has made conditions ideal for these pests. Experts advise growers to assess wireworm threats and adapt cultivation strategies. Early harvest potato varieties and specific cultivation choices can mitigate risks. Three beetle larvae species are the main concerns. Dr Ben Clunie at Harper Adams University explains the pest’s life-cycle and delves into two new control methods that could potentially be on the horizon.
Green energy meets agriculture: Innovative ‘SmartSola’ system to revolutionize potato storage, cut electricity costs
Crop Systems Limited in the UK has launched ‘Smart Sola’, a system designed to optimize home-generated energy use for farmers, reducing reliance on external power. The system monitors energy from various sources and deploys it efficiently across storage facilities. Philip Smith of Monkton Court Farm praises its ability to control storage run times based on solar energy availability, often eliminating the need for external energy, making it a cost-effective solution for UK farmers.
In the recent Synopsis newsletter by Potato Storage Insight (PSI), Adrian Cunnington discusses the challenges of potato storage due to wet weather in Britain. Some growers have finished harvesting, while others face rain-related issues like large tubers and tuber blight. PSI collaborates on a potato storage initiative with partners like GB Potatoes and SDF Agriculture. The bulletin highlights upgrading old storage facilities. PSI’s Adrian Cunnington will chair the new CIPC Residues Monitoring Group.
The Mintec Benchmark price for Dutch potatoes has stabilized at €120/mt, a 51% decrease from last year. Market insiders note a bullish trend as processors seek free-buy stocks. However, quality concerns have arisen, leading growers to sell lower-quality potatoes and store premium ones. Similarly, Fontane potatoes in Belgium are priced at €100/mt, a 60% year-on-year drop. Harvests in France and Germany progress, but quality issues persist.