News May 2023

Ireland rolls out €3.1 million Investment Aid Scheme for potato producers

Ireland’s Minister for Agriculture, Charlie McConalogue, announced the start of the 2023 Scheme of Investment Aid for the Seed Potato Sector and Chipping Potato Sector. The €3.1 million initiative, funded by the Brexit Adjustment Reserve Fund, aims to strengthen these industries through grants for specialised equipment and facilities. According to McConalogue, “the robust interest we’ve seen underlines the confidence and dedication of Irish seed and chipping potato growers towards this industry’s future.”

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A landmark initiative: The Soil Health Project is helping to shape potato farming of the future

The University of Minnesota’s Soil Health project, a $8 million initiative – the largest in potato industry history – concludes its fifth year, having enhanced understanding of soil health in potato farming. Engaging over 50 academics from 10 institutions, the project set up experiments across seven states, surveyed hundreds of growers, and produced extensive educational materials, including a soil health manual for potato growers. Research methods included experimental research, social- psychological factor investigation, and economic modeling of soil health management.

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China, Pakistan and other Belt and Road countries collaborate to propel potato industry forward

Eleven Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) countries, including China and Pakistan, have launched an international potato industry network in collaboration with several universities and organizations. The network, initiated by Southwest University, aims to improve the quality and efficiency of the potato industry through academic exchange, research, and technology transfer. It will also offer training and resources, including a germplasm resource bank for enhanced potato breeding efforts.

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POTATOPEST: Swedish scientists develop a new model for studying and predicting the impact of late blight on potato crops

Swedish scientists have developed POTATOPEST, a dynamic yield loss simulation model, which integrates a representation of late blight with potato crop growth. Published in Field Crops Research, the model provides valuable data for assessing potato yield losses and managing pest diseases, and could assist in developing more efficient management strategies. This aligns with the UN’s 2030 Agenda, which emphasizes the need for increased food production and reduction of crop pests and diseases, amid challenges like climate change and population growth.

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New era of eco-friendly pesticides: Canada approves field trials for RNAi technology

Renaissance BioScience Corp.’s RNA interference (RNAi) biopesticide technology has gained approval for field study by the Pest Management Research Agency in Canada. The technology targets specific pest genes, providing an eco-friendly alternative to traditional chemical pesticides. Initial priority is given to the Colorado potato beetle, known for its rapid resistance development to chemical pesticides. The company aims to conduct field trials globally. Renaissance also invites partners to develop pest-targeted biopesticides using its RNA technology patent portfolio.

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PepsiCo opens its most sustainable factory in Europe, driving transition towards a circular economy

Today, PepsiCo has unveiled its most sustainable factory in Europe as the industry increasingly recognises the circular economy as a framework to help address global food system challenges. The Polish plant will use new sustainability solutions that demonstrate aspects of a circular economy in action, such as collecting rainwater for reuse and generating its own energy via rooftop solar panels, with the plant set to be climate neutral by 2035.

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Japan won’t accept fresh Idaho potatoes, so U.S. lawmakers are pushing for change

Idaho’s congressional delegation, alongside 31 U.S. lawmakers, is pressing the USDA to urge Japan to purchase fresh American potatoes. Currently, a ban, purportedly to protect local farmers and ensure pest-free imports, prevents sales in Japan, a major market for frozen U.S. potatoes. In the letter to the USDA, lawmakers said Japan has no valid justification for the Japanese market to remain closed to fresh potatoes.

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Saving Michigan’s potatoes: Researchers investigate sustainable solutions to combat early die complex

Michigan’s potato industry is threatened by potato early die complex, causing significant losses. Currently, costly pesticides are the main defense. Michigan State University researchers, however, are trialing a sustainable solution using a blend of compost and manure. The goal is to create an affordable, eco-friendly alternative, reducing the disease’s damage rather than eliminating it entirely.

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Bridging science and practice: From diploid hybrid potato breeding to practical farming

Researchers from Solynta and Wageningen University and Research have published a review on the latest developments in diploid hybrid potato breeding. The study focuses on inbred line development, trait mapping, managing inbreeding depression, and trait introgression. It highlights techniques such as the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and CRISPR-based editing to accelerate trait introgression. The review underscores the importance of translating these scientific findings into practical breeding programs for farmers and end-users.

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Paying the price: Soaring cost of potatoes batters British fish and chip shops

Whether it’s fried, baked or mashed, potatoes have traditionally been a low-cost staple food in the UK – but not any more. A surge in costs is clobbering high street chippies, while in the supermarket, oven chips and the once humble baking potato are casualties of soaring grocery prices, as Zoe Wood reports for The Guardian. According to Andrew Crook, who speaks for the industry as the president of the National Federation of Fish Friers, “People might just shut their shop due to all the other costs as well.”

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‘The secrets within’: How the potato is reshaping the food industry

The potato, a globally prevalent food staple, plays a pivotal role in the food industry and holds untapped potential. As the interest in plant-based products grows, the potato, rich in protein and fiber, proves increasingly valuable. This Food Matters Live podcast, partnering with Royal Avebe, investigates the potato’s journey and its potential contributions to the modern food industry.

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Kenya to welcome the potato world: Nairobi secures bid to host 2026 World Potato Congress

Nairobi, Kenya, has been selected to host the 2026 World Potato Congress, a significant global event aimed at fostering partnerships to enhance food systems, food security, and international trade. This marks the first time the biennial congress will be held in sub-Saharan Africa. It is expected to boost potato production, employment, and sustainable agriculture in the region, while also providing a robust platform for networking, knowledge sharing, and investment in the potato sector.

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European frozen fry imports on thin ice: South Africa revives anti-dumping duties

The South African government has reinstated anti-dumping duties on frozen potato chips imported from the Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium after these imports were found to be undercutting local industry. While industry stakeholders praised the decision, concerns were raised about potential price increases for restaurants and shops. The number of potato farmers in South Africa has decreased by 14% over the past decade due to competitive pressures and production challenges, and further decline is expected.

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‘The Age of Snacks’: Frito-Lay and Quaker unveil summer snacking habits in the U.S.

Frito-Lay and Quaker have launched their inaugural U.S. Summer Snack Index, uncovering consumer snacking habits to enrich summer experiences. The report indicates that pre-planned snacks reduce road trip stress for 85% of Americans, and snacks are often prioritized over clean restrooms by younger road trippers. The study highlights the vital role of snacks in enhancing morale during trips and reducing traffic stress, with 41% of people preferring control over snacks rather than music during travel.

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What was behind Australia’s potato shortage? Wet weather and hard-to-control diseases

Australia faced a severe potato shortage due to wet weather, flooding, and persistent fungal diseases that destroyed crops in Tasmania, Victoria, and South Australia. The weather conditions, coupled with high fuel and fertiliser costs, led to delayed planting and harvesting, creating a ripple effect in the supply chain. Despite being efficient and profitable crops, growers face constant threats from soil-borne diseases. Scientists are working on predicting disease outbreaks through soil moisture and temperature monitoring.

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Report: Fertilizer affordability starts to improve after two turbulent years

Extreme market volatility and record-high prices severely impacted fertilizer demand in 2022. According to a new Rabobank report, affordability is starting to improve, and a rapid recovery in consumption is possible in some regions across the world in 2023. But in most cases, demand will take a while to return to pre-pandemic levels. Nitrogen-based fertilizers are very volatile, given their intrinsic connection with oil and natural gas. Potash prices continue to fall, but this is failing to raise demand.

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Evolution in harvesting: Dewulf launches new generation ZKIV harvester for root crops

Dewulf presents the second-generation ZKIV(SE), a powerful 4-row top lifting harvester, now capable of narrow-row harvesting. Upgrades include enhanced cleaning features, a new hydraulic elevator, and an advanced cutter set. Its redesigned elevator minimizes product damage while boosting capacity, while a new sensor system enhances safety. The self-propelled harvester is powered by a Scania 6-cylinder engine, with user-friendly controls in the X11 Claas cab, improving operational efficiency and crop quality.

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Potato Outlook 2023/24: After a record-breaking year, what is in store for US potatoes?

US potato production has decreased for the fourth straight year, driving prices to their highest levels. Analyst Almuhanad Melhim from Rabobank attributes this to strong demand for frozen potatoes and unmet demands for processing potatoes. Despite higher consumer prices, consumption isn’t expected to drop. Potatoes are predicted to gain an increased market value amidst inflation, while growers anticipate improved contract negotiations.

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Pulsemaster leads the charge in PEF technology for enhanced potato processing yield in North America

Dutch-German company Pulsemaster continues to innovate in potato processing with its Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) systems, offering higher yield and quality in French fries and potato chips production. The PEF technology creates tiny pores in cellular membranes, reducing cutting force and improving product quality. Pulsemaster’s PEF systems are increasingly in demand worldwide, making even tough produce like sweet potatoes easily processable. Key Account Manager for the Americas, Ben Lemieux, stands ready to provide further information.

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The battle against viral diseases: Novel strategies for antiviral resistance in potatoes

Scientists at the Inner Mongolia Agricultural University have reviewed advancements in antiviral strategies in potatoes by modifying both viral and plant genes. Potatoes are threatened by viral diseases, causing significant yield losses. Traditional breeding methods have limitations due to the plant’s complex genetic structure. Progress in molecular biology and genetic engineering offers promising strategies, including RNA interference and CRISPR/Cas9, to create virus-resistant crops. RThe Battle Against Viral Diseases in Potatoes:esearchers aim to enhance potato resistance to viruses.

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Bracing for El Niño: Predicted weather changes set to disrupt Northern America

Scientists warn of a 90% chance of El Niño, an ocean-warming event, occurring in 2023 and possibly extending into 2024. This significant climatic event, capable of altering global weather patterns, could bring warmer weather and less rainfall to the northern U.S. and Canada. Rising sea surface temperatures could exacerbate El Niño’s impact, potentially affecting millions of lives worldwide.

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Advancing the future of potato processing: REYCO Systems unveils revolutionary EcoMiser Elite oil removal system

REYCO Systems has introduced its EcoMiser Elite Oil Removal System, featuring innovative swirl tube technology and a 40% smaller footprint. The system reduces crumb build-up and fire risks, while optimizing oil pressure and flow with a reengineered internal hot oil rinse system. The design also offers greater flexibility in installation configurations and improved access due to redesigned cleaning doors.

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‘From waste to wealth’: South African potato industry aims to unlock the potential of cull potatoes

Potatoes South Africa and the University of Pretoria have secured funding for a project to create a new value chain for ‘cull’ potatoes. The three-phase approach includes a detailed market research study, innovative product development, and the creation of a secondary market for these potatoes as feed for high protein insects. Stakeholders globally are invited to collaborate and contribute ideas, potentially revolutionizing waste potato utilization and enhancing the industry’s sustainability.

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Boosting potato yields with Quantis: New insights from Syngenta and WUR

New research, from a collaboration between Syngenta and Wageningen University & Research, demonstrates that applying Quantis at tuber set timing can enhance potato yields. The treatment increased the number of tubers by 11% under dry stress conditions, and 6.5% under normal conditions. The treatment led to a 30% increase in stolon numbers under both conditions. The optimal time for Quantis application was found to be when the setting tubers were pea-sized.

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Navigating the spud trade: U.S. lawmakers pushes for greater access to Japanese fresh potato market

A bipartisan group of U.S. lawmakers is pushing for increased access to the Japanese fresh potato market. National Potato Council Head, Kam Quarles, suggests this could lead to a $150-200 million annual increase in potato exports. Lawmakers, in a letter to U.S. Secretary Vilsack, urged for resolutions in the ongoing three-decade trade negotiations before fall’s bilateral talks.

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Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse


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