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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
In 2023, US potato production soared by 9% to 20 million tonnes, the first increase since 2017. This surplus led to a significant drop in prices, benefiting food manufacturers. Enhanced growing conditions and expanded acreage in key states like Idaho contributed to this rise. The US, a leading global potato producer, also saw a 6% increase in exports, despite a decline in imports during the July-September period.
Rob Sears, a PhD student at the University of Tennessee, developed a potato plant that glows green in response to gamma radiation, serving as a natural radiation detector. This phytosensor is ideal for widespread use due to potatoes’ resilience and adaptability. The innovation offers a simple, cost-effective method for radiation monitoring, potentially enhancing safety in nuclear energy contexts. As nuclear energy continues to be used across the world, there is an increased demand for effective and easily accessible radiation detection methods.
Innovations and insights at the Ontario Potato Conference and AGM: Must-attend events for potato industry professionals
The 2024 Ontario Potato Conference, organized by Dr. Eugenia Banks and the Ontario Potato Board, is set for February 29th in Guelph. Featuring a Late Blight Symposium and a growers’ panel, the conference will address 2023’s challenges and strategies for 2024. The event includes a Trade Show with new tech exhibitors. The Ontario Potato Board’s Annual General Meeting (AGM) on Dec 6 will feature a special zoom presentation by Dr. Nora Olsen on tips for managing compromised potatoes in storage.
Researchers at the University of Idaho and the USDA/ERS conducted a study to identify soil health practices that are acceptable to farmers. The study considered several factors, including their production systems, land management, and farmers’ attitudes toward these practices. It highlights the challenges of intensive farming on soil health and explores factors influencing farmers’ decisions, such as profitability, land tenure, and capital constraints. The research aims to identify acceptable practices for farmers to promote soil health and profitability.
A team led by Zsofia Szendrei at MSU received a $6 million USDA grant to develop sustainable pest management strategies for U.S. potato farming, moving away from neonicotinoids. The team will explore alternative management solutions in lieu of using neonicotinoids. This grant was initiated through discussions with growers and potato industry representatives who highlighted the need for a project like this in 2020. The project, involving experts across various fields, will explore alternative insecticides and long-term industry impacts.
Researchers from the University of Idaho and the USDA-ARS are conducting a study to combat ‘cutting black’, a significant issue in the potato industry causing considerable revenue loss. This phenomenon, where stored potatoes develop dark bruises, impacts 10-20% of the fresh potato market. Funded by a $42,470 grant, the team is testing three compounds to prevent the darkening of bruised tissue. This research could revolutionize storage practices and reduce waste, as potatoes stored for extended periods often suffer from pressure bruises.
The University of Idaho’s new thermogradient table allows scientists to study the impact of temperature on weed emergence, aiding the development of models to optimize herbicide application timing. The research, led by Albert Adjesiwor and doctoral student Chandra Maki, will provide growers with data-driven insights to tackle herbicide resistance by applying preemergence herbicides more effectively based on local temperature conditions, improving weed control across the Pacific Northwest.
Innovating organic: OSU researchers receive $2M to look for new ways to prevent organic potatoes from spoiling
Oregon State University has received a $2 million USDA grant to develop anti-sprouting treatments for organic potatoes. The project addresses the growing organic market’s need for alternatives to synthetic chemicals, which are banned in organic farming. The research team is exploring natural products, like plant essential oils, and aims to create controlled-release methods to enhance storage life without compromising safety or quality, as U.S. organic food sales exceed $60 billion.
Aroostook County farmers in Maine achieved a good potato yield despite a wet season, thanks to high water content in potatoes and technological advancements. The region, producing 90% of Maine’s potatoes, maintained quality through controlled storage and adaptable varieties. Notable successes include the Caribou Russet and efforts by local farms like Irving Farms and L&L Paradis Farms, demonstrating resilience and innovation in challenging weather conditions.
In the third quarter of 2023, potato retail sales in the U.S. increased by 9.5% compared to the same period last year, as reported by Potatoes USA. Despite a slight 1.7% drop in overall volume sales, fresh potato sales remained stable. Notable growth was seen in canned, frozen, and instant potato categories in dollar sales. Fresh potato prices rose to $1.12 per pound, a 6.3% increase from the previous year. Despite some fluctuations, the overall increase in dollar sales highlights the enduring appeal of potatoes among consumers.
This article, based on research by Stephen A. Fleming and Jenny R. Morris at Traverse Science in Illinois, challenges the negative perception of potatoes, focusing on their nutritional value and health impact. It argues that potatoes are high-quality carbohydrates, comparable to legumes and grains. The study highlights the importance of preparation methods and dietary context, showing that potatoes can contribute positively to a balanced diet and should not be excluded based on their glycemic index alone.
‘Spuds to energy’: Researchers at the University of Prince Edward Island want to make hydrogen from potato peels
Researchers at UPEI in Canada are innovating green energy by converting potato peels into hydrogen gas. Led by Yulin Hu, the project explores syngas production from food waste, with Nasim Mia studying UV light’s role in the process. Funded by various sources, this research is part of a broader initiative to transition from petroleum to hydrogen energy, promising significant environmental benefits and solutions for a greener future.
The Potato Sustainability Alliance (PSA) has launched a Grower Program to enhance sustainable farming. Utilizing the Cropwise Sustainability app, the program offers tools for growers to measure and improve their sustainability practices. Benefits include real-time insights, benchmark reports, and data control. Enrollment is simple, empowering growers to contribute to a more sustainable future for potato production. The PSA continues to lead the charge in eco-friendly agricultural advancements.
Syngenta Canada has announced the launch of Cruiser Maxx Vibrance Potato, a fungicide and insecticide seed treatment designed to combat a wide range of pests. The all-in-one formulation is said to simplify seed treatment, offering both insect protection and control against primary potato diseases. The product, which will be available for the 2024 growing season, also contains Thiamethoxam, a Group 4 insecticide, for defense against early-season insect pests. The company promises best-in-class Rhizoctonia control.
Jacob Vanderschaaf, a seasoned potato industry veteran, warns of a potential ‘sunset’ in agriculture – a decline due to unsustainable practices. He contrasts this with a ‘sunrise’ scenario, advocating for a sustainable future through organic and regenerative farming. Vanderschaaf calls for collective action among farmers, consumers, and policymakers to embrace eco-friendly methods, ensuring a thriving agricultural legacy for future generations.
McCain Foods USA received a $6.9 million USDA grant to enhance soil health and implement sustainable potato practices in partnership with Campbell Soup Company and the Soil Health Institute. The project supports McCain’s commitment to regenerative agriculture, aiming to revolutionize potato farming in response to climate challenges, with the goal of adopting these practices globally by 2030. This partnership will also contribute to Campbell’s ongoing potato sustainability program.