The UN has designated May 30 as International Day of Potato in a bid to stress the vegetable’s global importance for food security. The move was initiated by Peru and builds on the International Year of Potato, observed in 2008. As a versatile, climate-friendly crop that is both nutritionally and economically valuable, potatoes play a pivotal role in addressing global hunger, malnutrition and poverty.
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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.
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 World Potato Congress Inc. is hosting a webinar titled “Opening the Black Box of Losses in the Potato Value Chain” on December 12, 2023. Presented by Luciana Delgado, the webinar aims to address the significant issue of food loss and waste in food production. Delgado’s experience spans agribusiness, agronomy, and food losses, making her insights particularly valuable for this topic. The webinar will also introduce an app designed for efficient measurement of food losses at the producer level.
The USDA has funded a Potatoes USA-backed project to find alternatives to neonicotinoids, used for 25 years in potato farming. Facing environmental and retailer concerns, this “Potato IPM” project aims to develop non-neonic pest strategies, create decision tools, study socioeconomic impacts, and encourage grower adoption. Potatoes USA’s committee secured significant industry support, continuing its history of advancing sustainable potato farming practices with this groundbreaking initiative.
The United Potato Growers of Canada’s recent update reveals a complex global potato market. Canada’s stable production contrasts with the U.S.’s surplus and aggressive pricing, especially in Idaho. Europe faces challenges with unprecedented rainfall affecting the harvest. Surpluses in North America and difficulties in Europe present potential market opportunities. The industry is navigating these varied dynamics, with Canada and the U.S. possibly benefiting from the current global situation.
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.
Reyco Systems, a leader in food processing technology, has opened a new 15,000-square-foot manufacturing and repair facility in Eltopia, Washington. This expansion, emphasized by President Clay Cooper, aims to improve customer relations through in-person interactions and faster repair services. Sean Dixon, Director and Site Manager for Reyco Eltopia, expresses the positive impact of the new facility. The facility also represents Reyco’s commitment to hiring local talent and providing excellent service.
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.
In Maine, potato prices may soon rise due to escalating farming costs. Farmers face higher expenses for electricity, diesel, and labor, impacting their profit margins. Despite current stable prices in grocery stores, the increased production costs, affected by supply chain issues and inflation, could eventually lead to higher prices for consumers. Maine’s potato industry, worth $247 million, is grappling with economic challenges that may affect the market.
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.
Canadian potato growers are leveraging artificial intelligence (AI) to monitor and predict their crops’ nutritional needs in real time. The new technology involves using a portable optical sensor to quickly assess potato field nutrient values. The technology utilises machine learning algorithms trained on historical data, thereby providing near real-time evaluations of plant nutritional requirements. This method improves fertilizer application efficiency, optimising yield and quality while maintaining environmental balance.
A BBC Ideas video underlines the importance of soil, often overlooked despite its crucial role in life on Earth. The soil hosts an estimated 50,000 species of microscopic organisms per gram, forming a complex ecosystem of mutual benefit between creatures like earthworms, microorganisms, and plants. Soil growth is slow, taking over 100 years to form just half a centimeter. Despite being a valuable carbon store and a vital part of Earth’s nitrogen and carbon cycle, it is under threat due to intensive farming, chemical contamination, and urbanization.
Eight new projects across nine countries: PepsiCo expands its Positive Agriculture Outcomes initiative
PepsiCo has unveiled the third year of its global agriculture initiative, the Positive Agriculture Outcomes (PAO) Accelerator, endorsing eight more projects in nine nations. Aimed at addressing pressing agricultural issues, the initiative propels PepsiCo’s pep+ agenda. The PAO Accelerator pledges co-investment to local farms to expedite various Positive Agriculture projects and supports agri-tech startups with scalable products or technologies.
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.
The Soil Health Institute and McCain Foods hosted a panel discussion on the integration of cover crops into potato farming systems. Panelists, who represented diverse geographies, outlined four principles: know your goal, don’t seek perfection, view it as an investment, and consult experts. Beyond soil coverage, cover crops can enhance soil health, attract beneficial insects and even provide livestock feed.
In a gesture of community aid amidst rising food insecurity McCain Foods partnered with nonprofit Foodbank Australia to donate around 100,000 meals. The meals were prepared at the company’s Wendouree-based factory, dedicating its full production line to the effort for a day. Ross Fallon, McCain Foods’ supply chain director, highlighted the growing need for such support, while Foodbank Victoria’s CEO, Dave McNamara, urged other food manufacturers to follow suit.
Due to the world’s population reaching 8 billion, there is a high demand for food security. The potato could be key in meeting this need. However, its production is declining and methods to increase yield are environmentally damaging. This article by By Prof Lucy Moleleki at the University of Pretoria in South Africa highlights the advantages of crop rotation as an effective, eco-friendly way to control pathogens and optimize yields.
McDonald’s, a leading global fast-food chain, has displayed its dominance by serving 70 million customers daily, exceeding the populations of countries like France, the UK, Italy, Argentina, Canada, and Poland. With over 40,275 outlets worldwide, McDonald’s has significantly outpaced its nearest competitor, Subway. In 2022, the US, the birthplace of McDonald’s, generated $9.42 billion in revenue, while international markets collectively contributed about $11.16 billion. McDonald’s success is attributed to aggressive marketing and customer engagement through the McDonald’s Rewards program.