This op-ed article is by Dave Douches (PhD), professor and Director of the Potato Breeding and Genetics Program and Director of the Plant Breeding, Genetics and Biotechnology Graduate Program at Michigan State University, and Project Director of the Feed the Future Global Biotech Potato Partnership. “As a scientist working in potato breeding for over 40 years, one may wonder why I am talking about trust and critical thinking.”
Pests and Diseases
Researchers will be testing genetically modified potatoes in Bangladesh and Indonesia this year in hopes of providing farmers with an alternative to spraying fungicides. Multiple confined field trials of GM late blight-resistant (LBR) potatoes will be conducted in both countries under a Feed the Future Global Biotech Potato Partnership. Late blight disease is a serious problem in both countries, destroying 25 to 57 percent of the crop.
AAFC scientist, Dr. Christine Noronha has been named one of seven 2022 Influential Women in Canadian Agriculture by Annex Business Media. It’s because of Dr. Noronha that an important invention for farmers in the fight against pesky wireworms, a common potato plant predator, bears her name. The NELT™ or Noronha Elaterid Light Trap designed by Dr. Noronha in 2016 is a major breakthrough for the industry. She discovered the world’s first planted-based approach to controlling wireworms.
British potato growers should switch to new Syngenta 3D ninety nozzles to ensure more timely blight applications this season – and achieve the best possible results, advocates the company’s application specialist, Harry Fordham. The 90% drift reduction nozzles create the optimum droplet spectrum for coverage throughout the crop canopy, including lower leaves and stems where micro-climate conditions can be particularly humid and conducive to blight infection.
Stress factors set to hit potato crops over the coming weeks could increase the risk of Alternaria (early blight) outbreaks, warns Syngenta Technical Manager in the UK, Andy Cunningham. Many British crops are still suffering the adverse effects of exceptionally low rainfall this spring, while the hugely inflated cost of fertiliser has seen potato growers cut back nutritional inputs to the bare minimum.
At times, potato growers may experience poor emergence of potato plants. There are number of reasons why potato plants may not emerge properly. Potato specialists Andy Robinson, Eugenia Banks and Steven B. Johnson have compiled a list of common problems that can cause poor potato emergence and stand. Utilizing this list can help growers more rapidly identify the cause and improve management of the crop and subsequent crops.
University of Idaho entomology doctoral student Kelie Yoho’s research suggests mineral oils could offer an environmentally friendly tool to help potato seed growers avoid losses to potato virus Y (PVY). U of I master’s student Nathan Gelles has studied promising methods to promote sprouting in freshly harvested potatoes.
Colorado potato beetle (CPB) populations have an amazing ability to develop resistance to insecticides — including many of the carbamate, organophosphate, pyrethroid, spinosyn, and neonicotinoid insecticides that are used today, writes Carrie Huffman Wohleb in this article. In essence, she says, these beetles are pre-equipped to deal with toxins. It may take only small changes to confer resistance to new toxins.
Researchers at the University of Prince Edward Island are beginning their search for a potato variety more resistant to potato wart following a provincial economic loss of 300 million pounds of potatoes. Xiuquan (Xander) Wang, a UPEI associate professor working on the project, said the funding from Genome Atlantic will go toward comparing the genes of different potato varieties.
Good news: the newest ‘high-tech tool’ for diagnosing crop disease is also man’s best friend — a friendly dog. Specifically, it’s a crew of five dogs trained by Andrea Parish of Dayton, Wyoming, owner of “Nose Knows Scouting.” Parish and one of her dogs, Zora, flew into Fargo, North Dakota, so that Zora could sniff her way through the North Dakota State University potato seed development program, looking for Potato Virus Y (PVY).
EuroBlight, a late blight monitoring network for Europe, is continuously examining the ongoing evolution of the European population of the potato late blight pathogen. Euroblight has now released a report detailing the results of the 2021 monitoring activities. Approximately 2500 samples from 26 countries were genotyped. According to the report, blight pressure in 2021 was higher than average across many parts of Europe.
The significant threat posed by potato cyst nematode (PCN) in many potato-growing areas is making variety choice a key component of a sustainable production system. As Louise Impey reports for Farmers Weekly in the UK, with nematicides facing an uncertain future, varieties that offer both resistance and tolerance to the dominant nematode species, Globodera pallida, are becoming part of the solution.
“The soft rot bacterium that causes seed piece decay is very common, and it has an extensive host range. It survives in soil and surface waters. Soft rot in potatoes is caused by Pectobacterium carotovorum subsp. carotovorum,” says Dr Eugenia Banks, potato specialist with the Ontario Potato Board in Canada.
Powered by satellite data and powerful analysis models, ‘GeoPotato’ is designed to enable preventive spraying, easier crop protection decisions, and improved farmer incomes. GeoPotato was launched by Bayer as a geodata-driven early warning system for late blight in potatoes, and has entered a full commercial roll-out in Bangladesh. It could potentially reach as many as 1 million smallholder farmers in the coming years.
On March 29, Dr Jeff Miller from Miller Research in Idaho presented this webinar in collaboration with the Ontario Potato Board, coordinated by Dr Eugenia Banks and hosted by Potatoes in Canada magazine. A recording of the webinar is now available on YouTube.
The health and success of Idaho’s staple crop is receiving renewed support with the launch of the new University of Idaho Seed Potato Germplasm Laboratory. As Emily Pearce reports for Moscow-Pullman Daily News, the $5.6 million lab opened its doors to the community with a ribbon-cutting ceremony Tuesday, complete with potato-themed desserts and guided tours of the new space.
The National Potato Council (NPC) in the U.S. today released a statement in response to USDA’s announcement that trade in table stock potatoes would resume between Prince Edward Island (PEI), Canada, and the United States. “We are dismayed to learn that USDA is allowing PEI table stock potatoes to resume shipments to the U.S. prior to completing soil tests for the destructive potato wart disease,” NPC says.
The USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) today announced that Canada is expected to soon resume exporting Prince Edward Island (PEI) table stock potatoes into the contiguous United States. USDA says as a result of the U.S. and Canada reaching an understanding about the risk of table stock potato imports from PEI, Canada will lift its ban while APHIS plans to publish a federal order outlining additional required mitigations to protect the U.S. potato industry.
On March 29, Jeff Miller from Miller Research in Idaho will present a free webinar on “Field Identification of Common Foliar Diseases of Potatoes”. This webinar is organized in collaboration with the Ontario Potato Board. It starts at 11:00 a.m. and finishes at 11:45 a.m. ET.
Evidence suggests that wireworm damage in potatoes has been getting more severe and widespread and, in some cases, has led to British growers losing £100,000s in revenue. This worsening problem has prompted plenty of research activity to try to find solutions for growers looking to protect their investment
Greater use of natural regeneration breaks and cover crops in arable rotations means the weed seed burden of some of the more troublesome weeds for potatoes are on the increase in the UK. Potato growers feeling the pinch of price pressures this spring could look at simplifying herbicide mixes for more cost-effective pre-emergence options, advocates Syngenta Technical Manager, Andy Cunningham.
A weather-based decision support system that originated 15 years ago in the tree fruit orchards of Washington state has branched into the region’s potato fields. The Pacific Northwest Potato Decision Aid System (DAS) collects regional weather inputs and combines that with research-based data on local pest populations. It then alerts growers to when different insect populations may be active.
Across Canada’s Prince Edward Island province in Canada, around 300 million pounds of potatoes have been destroyed by farmers due to the border troubles between Canada and the U.S. The chair of the P.E.I. potato board, JohnVisser’s farm is one of 130 farms that has applied under a federal government program that provides financial assistance for the costs associated with destroying them while the ground is still frozen.
The Prince Edward Island potato industry in Canada has its fingers crossed for good news before the end of this week. Agriculture and Agri-Food Minister Marie-Claude Bibeau indicated in a number of media interviews in early March she was expecting an answer from U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack on when Island potatoes could once again flow south by March 10, according to a report by Andy Walker.
The Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) has detected the presence of potato wart in a third field in Prince Edward Island. The agency says the fungus was detected on a farm that does not produce table stock potatoes and does not export to Puerto Rico. No seed potatoes produced in 2021 left this grower’s facility.
New advice for in-furrow application of Amistar during potato planting will achieve a more complete zone of protection around the mother tuber when using modern high-speed belt planters, advises Syngenta Application Specialist, Harry Fordham.