Europe, UK, Ireland

Dundee hosts major UK potato industry conference: A focus on resilience and innovation

Over 150 UK potato producers will convene at the SACAPP conference in Dundee, hosted by SRUC, to discuss industry resilience, innovation, and challenges such as PCN. Keynote speakers, including industry experts and a Nuffield Scholar, will share insights, with Scotland’s Chief Plant Health Officer closing the event. Held on January 24 at the Apex City Quay Hotel, the conference offers networking and workshops, with free entry for SACAPP members and ticketed entry for others.

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Resilience in the fields: Dutch farmers struggle through extreme weather challenges

Dutch farmers struggle with climate-change-induced extreme weather, leading to crop losses, especially potatoes, carrots, and sugar beets. Wageningen University research focuses on mitigating the effects of severe weather on soil and crop health. Strategies under exploration include utilizing lighter farming machinery and breeding resilient crop varieties. Challenges extend to spring-flowering bulbs, with efforts underway to manage water levels effectively. The university emphasizes the urgency of developing adaptive agricultural practices and crop varieties resistant to extreme conditions.

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European farmers’ unrest escalates: A panoramic view of protests across the continent

European farmers are protesting en masse against restrictive agricultural policies and economic struggles. France sees potential nationwide action over new taxes and regulations, while German farmers block Berlin, rejecting cuts to fuel subsidies. In Romania, farmers demand quicker subsidy payments and compensation. The EU offers a €500m aid package, but discontent persists, pressuring governments to reconsider their agricultural policies as widespread disruption and dissatisfaction among farmers grow.

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Albert Bartlett ‘in talks’ to purchase the Jersey Royal Company

The BBC reports that Albert Bartlett is in talks to buy The Jersey Royal Company from Produce Investments. A renowned potato supplier with extensive farming operations, Albert Bartlett has been associated with Jersey potatoes for generations and has infrastructure on the island since 2008. The Jersey Royal Company has specialized in these potatoes for over two decades.

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Irish potato market thrives amidst cold weather, European markets show mixed trends

During the cold wave in Ireland, potato sales are on the rise, as reported by the Irish Farmers Association. Despite a tough harvest reducing yields, demand and prices for quality potatoes remain steady. Across Europe, with 15,000 hectares still unharvested, the market shows strength and a trend towards higher prices. Exports are reviving, especially towards the Mediterranean and Eastern Europe, indicating growth potential in international markets.

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Diverse cover crops a key strategy in British grower’s regenerative approach

In a recent discussion at Groundswell, agronomist Ed Brown, head of agroecology at Hutchinson’s in the UK, and East Shropshire grower John Bubb showcased the potential of growing potatoes regeneratively, focusing on good soil analysis and careful management. On Bubb’s 2,000-acre farm, they integrate soil health with crop diversity to maintain yields and cut inputs. Techniques include diverse cover crops, reduced tillage, with pest control also a focus.

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Emerging threat: WUR spearheads €7 million project to address rising plant-parasitic nematodes in Europe

Wageningen University and Research (WUR) in the Netherlands is leading a 7 million euros-funded research project called NEM-EMERGE, focusing on the increasing threat of root-knot and cyst nematodes to potato and tomato crops due to climate change and genetic selection. The project aims to map the distribution of nematodes, understand resistance gene instability, develop practical solutions, and promote collaboration for sustainable agriculture.

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From dormancy to sprouting: New study offers insights into physiological aging and storage conditions of potatoes

A study conducted by scientists at Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands focuses on developing a model to quantify the physiological aging of potato seed tubers, considering the effects of storage conditions and growth history of different potato varieties. The research reveals that storage temperatures significantly impact the physiological age of the tubers, leading to the development of a novel mathematical model. Practical applications include optimizing storage conditions and enhancing crop production.

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UK’s Health and Safety Executive proposes withdrawal of mancozeb approval, impacting agricultural practices

The Health and Safety Executive of Great Britain has proposed the withdrawal of the widely used pesticide mancozeb. This decision, expected to impact agricultural practices, may lead to changes in mancozeb’s use. Despite the proposed withdrawal, efforts are underway to explore options for maintaining its availability in the UK market. The approval is set to expire on 31st January 2024, with a possible interim extension.

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Germany: Farmers’ protest causes nationwide disruption

German farmers are enraged by the government’s plan to reduce agricultural subsidies, leading to nationwide protests and anticipated road blockades. The government insists on maintaining the subsidy cuts despite the uproar. The demonstrations have disrupted production at a Volkswagen factory, prompting calls from Economy Minister Robert Habeck for a reevaluation of the agricultural sector’s challenges. The protests highlight the pressures faced by farmers from various economic forces.

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Persistent wet weather taking its toll on UK farmers

Farmers and landowners in the UK are warned of potential flooding as Storm Henk brings heavy rain. The persistently wet weather has caused further damage to crops and farmland, following previous storms. The Environment Agency has issued 129 flood warnings and 294 flood alerts for England, while Natural Resources Wales and Scotland have also issued warnings and alerts.

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PepsiCo products pulled from some Carrefour grocery stores in Europe over price increases

Carrefour supermarkets in France have ceased selling PepsiCo products due to price hikes. The ban will extend to Belgium, Spain, and Italy. Carrefour cited “unacceptable price increases” for popular items like Lay’s chips. PepsiCo, which has raised prices by double-digit percentages for seven consecutive quarters, stated it is in discussions with Carrefour. The French grocery chain has not specified when the ban will take effect in the other countries.

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Floods in Germany: Desperate farmers fight to save harvests

Amid widespread New Year celebrations in Germany, farmer Dirk Reinecke worked tirelessly to salvage 150 tons of potatoes threatened by floods. Along with fellow farmers in Lower Saxony, Reinecke battled rising water levels and unrelenting rainfall, putting the winter harvest at risk. The flooding, unprecedented in his 58 years, has left fields submerged since November, imperiling the potato and sugar beet harvest. Despite efforts, the outlook for 2024 remains challenging.

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Potato prices quadruple in Ukraine due to supply shortage and quality issues

Ukrainian potato prices have surged to 15-20 UAH/kg ($0.39-0.52/kg), representing an 11% increase from the end of 2023. This price spike is attributed to dwindling local supply, exacerbated by unfavorable weather and subpar seed potatoes. Market players anticipate further price hikes due to a potential scarcity of high-quality potatoes. The latest hike reflects a 3.9-fold increase from early January 2023.

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Potato Storage Insight announces 2024 Store Managers Course with early bird discounts

The PSI Potato Store Managers’ Course for 2024, led by Adrian Cunnington alongside Glyn Harper, is set for February 28th and 29th at The Crown Hotel, Boroughbridge. This year’s course introduces the BASIS (Stored Potatoes) qualification, focusing on practical and interactive storage management training. Early bird discounts are available until January 12th, offering a unique opportunity for both new and experienced professionals in the potato storage industry to enhance their skills and knowledge.

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GRIMME UK unveils New Year deals for farm machinery, offering financial relief to growers

GRIMME UK has launched new money-saving promotions for growers, including delayed payment terms on irrigation equipment, with growers able to buy now and pay later on new in-stock reels. Flexible payment options are also available for carrot, parsnip, and onion machines, and a fixed price per acre on sugar beet harvesters. Nathan Hotchen, GRIMME UK’s Sales Manager, acknowledges the challenges faced by British farming in 2023 and hopes the promotions will ease the burden for growers.

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Britain’s evolving dietary habits: A tale told by potatoes

In her article “Fries with that: How potato tastes tell the story of Britain’s changing diet,” data journalist Lauren Orso analyzes the shift in British dietary preferences using DEFRA’s Family food statistics. Fresh potato purchases have declined drastically since 1974, while processed potatoes have risen in popularity. The COVID-19 pandemic briefly revived fresh potato purchases, but overall, processed options now surpass fresh green vegetables, signaling a significant change in dietary preferences.

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Starch potato crop in The Netherlands faces unprecedented challenges due to adverse weather

Avebe is facing a challenging harvest season in The Netherlands as adverse weather conditions have left 5 to 10 percent of the crop unharvested. The wet conditions have led to record-high tare percentages, lower starch content in potatoes, and reduced overall yields per hectare. These quality concerns are impacting Avebe’s campaign planning, forcing factories to operate at maximum capacity. Additionally, some batches are being processed earlier due to storability issues.

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The soil-plant connection: A comprehensive guide to soil health and plant vitality

Joel Williams, a plant and soil health educator in the UK, presented “Soils and Nutrition” delving into the complex relationship between soil health and plant nutrition. He emphasized the critical role of soil in supporting healthy plants, discussed global soil degradation, and advocated for a holistic approach to soil management. Williams explained the role of plants in soil health and outlined practical strategies for improvement.

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Agricultural innovators: Pioneering project calls for British farmers to help train robots in slug control

A groundbreaking trial in the UK will equip farmers with special rigs to train robots to detect and treat slugs in arable crops. The project, part of SLIMERS, aims to develop sustainable slug control strategies using advanced technology and biological agents. Farmers can participate in a webinar on January 10 and receive payment for their involvement. The initiative seeks to enlist farmers with a strong understanding of pest control and a willingness to embrace new technologies.

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Potato market update: Climatic challenges and rising demand in Ireland, the UK and Europe as Christmas approaches

As the festive season approaches, Ireland is experiencing a surge in potato demand, leading to challenges for farmers. The high clay content in harvested crops is complicating yield predictions and causing storage issues. In the UK, there’s an increase in direct movement of potatoes from farms as buyers prepare for Christmas, leading to firm prices for chipping varieties. Across Europe, efforts are underway to harvest remaining crops amidst challenges like frost damage.

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Pulsemaster revolutionizes food processing with new innovative Compact PEF system

Pulsemaster has launched a compact industrial-scale pulsed electric field (PEF) system, designed to process up to 10 tons of tubers, roots, vegetables, and fruits per hour. It’s a revolutionary fit for small and mid-scale production lines due to its minimal footprint, rapid startup, and commitment to sustainability. It uses electroporation for tissue softening, enhancing food quality. Particularly beneficial for frozen foods, it enhances flavor and maintains cell structure. Pulsemaster’s new system illustrates their dedication to advancing food quality and production efficiency globally.

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Tim Kitson: An inspirational story of resilience and a positive outlook in the face of great adversity

Norfolk potato consultant Tim Kitson, who suffered from severe head injuries after a 30ft fall from an elevated walkway onto the concrete floor of a potato store which he was inspecting in 2019, has received national recognition at the British Potato Awards. Besides overcoming physical challenges, he retrained his sense of smell, affected due to a brain bleed. His client, Lamb Weston, praised his innovative ideas and positive attitude despite facing significant professional and personal challenges.

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Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse


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