Production/Agronomy

Agrico East Africa goes digital – and Kenyan potato farmers love it…

The Agrico East Africa team was working hard the past few months to produce video tutorials on ‘Profitable Potato Farming in Kenya’. They did this in a well-rewarded effort to continue their work of rendering agronomic support to smallholder farmers in Kenya, despite the debilitating COVID-19 restrictions that was imposed on Kenyan citizens during the pandemic. Agrico East Africa (EA), operating as Potato Services Africa Limited, has been working in Kenya since 2015 as a merchant of – Kenyan produced – certified potato seed. Agrico East Africa (EA), operating as Potato Services Africa Limited, has been working in Kenya since 2015 as a merchant of – Kenyan produced – certified potato seed.

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New app aids accurate slug pellet application for British growers

A new online tool aiming to improve accuracy of slug pellet applications is now available, allowing operators to effectively set up uniform and precise pellet doses, according to a news story published by Farmers Weekly in the UK today. The app, named Calibration Wizard, which has been developed by slug pellet manufacturer Certis, in partnership with SCS Spreader and Sprayer Testing, hopes to reduce labour time calibrating equipment.

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McCain steps in to support UK potato industry, put three-to-five-year loyalty scheme in place for growers

The UK’s £1bn potato growing sector has been hit so hard by extreme weather and coronavirus that its largest customer is stepping in with £25m of support to secure its supply chain. The hardest hit growers have been those who sell in the spot market rather than under contract, such as those selling for “fresh chipping” on the premises of food outlets. McCain, which buys about 15 per cent of the UK’s annual potato crop, normally has one-year contracts with growers. But as part of the £25m investment it will put in place a three-to-five-year loyalty scheme so farmers can be assured of their market.

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Global potato statistics: An overview

The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) maintains a databasis on many different crops, named FAOSTAT. It provides a powerful search facility that users can employ and manipulate to obtain data about a chosen crop. I extracted data for the potato crop related to “production” and “area harvested”, and present the results in the tables below (for 130 countries where potatoes are cultivated). The latest FAOSTAT data available is for 2018.

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Upcoming webinar: Desiccation – how to apply diquat alternatives to potato crops

Next Wednesday, 19 August 2020, AHDB in the UK will host a webinar focused on potato desiccation. During this online event, participants will get an in-field view of this year’s SPot Farm desiccation trials, as AHDB continues to provide independent data on how best to replace diquat as a desiccant. Observations from this year’s crop will be discussed, as well as a look at completed trial results from previous seasons and an interview with lead trials researcher Mark Stalham, before an online Q&A.

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UK late blight fungicide trials: ‘No significant decline in sensitivity found’

Results from blight fungicide testing show no significant decline in sensitivity according to research supported by AHDB. Data taken from trials carried out throughout 2019 means no changes in recommendations for blight control issued by the Fungicide Resistance Action Group (FRAG). Research leader David Cooke said: “…this data does not show any immediate cause for concern for potato growers that newer blight genotypes are causing problems for fungicide programmes.

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Organic potatoes: Scottish crop put at risk by politicking, says former Minister

Scotland grows an estimated 70% of the UK’s organic potatoes – but that’s now been put at risk from blight infection because of a bizarre ruling by the Scottish Government. So writes Colin Clark, former Scotland Office Minister with responsibility for food and farming, in an article published by The Scottish Farmer. Mr Clark writes that the UK farming minister has authorised the emergency use of copper hydroxide to control late blight, however the Scottish government ruled against using copper to control the disease.

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New herbicide approved for control of broadleaf and grass weeds in potato crops in New Zealand

A new herbicide that controls potato weeds, like black nightshade, has been approved by the Environmental Protection Authority for use in New Zealand, subject to certain conditions. Boxer Gold is intended to be used as a herbicide for the treatment of broadleaf and grass weeds in potato crops. Benefits identified in the application process for this product include reduced resistance in weeds, leading to bigger potato crops, and more product choice for farmers.

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AVR’s foldable ridger meets demand for mechanical weed control

Mechanical weed control is more and more becoming an essential part of farmers cultivation practices, and is no longer limited to biological cultivation only. For years now, AVR has been successfully designing and selling its combination ridging machine, which consists of a base chassis with a characteristic ‘weight transfer’ system, to which different elements can be added. This way the machine can be used as a speed ridger, hoe-rake ridger or an ‘eco ridger’. AVR introduces a foldable version to be able to remove weeds from even more ridges in one working pass

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Potato haulm destruction – take a hybrid approach without diquat

With many seed potato crops around Scotland coming up to size rapidly, potato growers are getting to grips with haulm destruction which will become part of the ‘new norm’ in the post-diquat era. The good news is that there are still viable options to bring down even vigorous canopies, but a change of mindset is needed. The industry standard is now to ‘flail-and-spray’. The canopy is destroyed with a pulveriser and one or more follow-up desiccant sprays are used to finish the job and to prevent regrowth.

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Crops, farmers on Canada’s Prince Edward Island struggling with dry fields

Farmers on Prince Edward Island are struggling in what they say is a very dry growing season, according to a report by the CBC. The Island has had a lot of hot, dry days and not much rain — in some cases, just 20 per cent of what’s normal. CBC meteorologist Jay Scotland says spring and summer have been very dry, especially in western P.E.I. The potato crop is struggling in some parts of the Island, as rainfall throughout the summer has been spotty.

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Spud Scoop: No late blight reported, PVY Risk Index values less than half of last year

The latest Spud Scoop newsletter was published yesterday. Spud Scoop is a growing season publication compiled by specialists at NDSU Extension and University of Minnesota, combining information for potato growers. Potato Extension Agronomist Dr Andy Robinson writes that no late blight has been reported in potato fields, however weather conditions are favorable for late blight. Early blight is becoming more prevalent. Aphid numbers have doubled over last week, causing the PVY Vector Risk Index to more than double this week. The good news is PVY Risk Index values are less than half what they were at this time last year.

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The technology behind a new agricultural revolution

By 2050, Earth is projected to be home to ten billion people. To feed them, we will need to increase crop production by at least 60 percent, writes Matt Harman in this blog article published by ESRI. Yet climate change, water scarcity, and soil erosion will force us to rethink how we grow crops. And rampant urbanization, with so many people living far away from agricultural areas, will force us to find more efficient ways to distribute food. The third green revolution builds on established precision agriculture practices, while creating a larger picture of the agricultural landscape farmers are operating within.

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Managing waste potato piles

Outgrade potato piles can be a source of blight. In this article AHDB specialists in the UK are discussing blight control methods in outgrade and waste piles as well as best practice and tips for tackling this issue. Blight control does not start in the crop. It starts much earlier. Left uncontrolled, outgrade and waste piles act as a reservoir for blight infection. With ever changing genotypes within the blight populations, outgrade piles and volunteers can be an unwanted host for blight and a source of infection for commercial crops.

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Market for food service remains flat in Ireland; low tuber numbers in early harvested crops

In the latest IFA potato market report published today, it is said that the market for the food service sector remains very flat as pubs and restaurants are slow to get going again. Retail demand has leveled off but remains positive. The early market is holding quite well and lifting continues along the east coast, however, there are more reports this week that tuber numbers are down. The NEPG expect the EU crop to be slightly higher this year. Plantings have increased by around 0.5%.

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Postdoc development of a decision-support system for potato production

Are you that enthusiastic researcher that likes to work on modelling and programming, and apply it to improve processes in crop production? ‘Yield gap analysis for sustainable potato production’ (Potato Gap NL) is a project funded by NWO and Holland Innovative Potato (HIP), an initiative of 10 companies active in the potato value chain and prominent global players in the fields of potato breeding and processing. Increases in potato yields in the Netherlands have been relatively small compared to other crops.

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Dutch ag sector has ‘lowest environmental footprint’ in the world

The Dutch agricultural sector is said to have, relatively speaking, the lowest environmental impact of all countries in the world. That is what ABN Amro says. According to the bank, the joint ‘footprint of CO2, energy, pesticides and antibiotics in the Netherlands is the smallest per kilo of agricultural product.’ “We produce more per hectare of land here than any other country,” says Jan de Ruyter, agricultural sector banker at ABN Amro.

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Commission approves €35 million Belgian scheme to support potato growers

The European Commission has approved a €35 million Belgian scheme to support companies active in the potato and floricultural primary production sectors in the Flemish region that are affected by the coronavirus outbreak. The public support will take the form of direct grants. Of the total budget of €35m, €10m is earmarked to support potato growers, and €25m to support ornamental plant growers.

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New trials: Trap crop for control of PCN in potato crops

Four group members of The Shropshire Potato Growers Discussion Group in the UK are hosting trials on their farm this year looking at trap crops as a method of PCN control. For potato growers in the UK one of the biggest threats to production and sustainability are the potato cyst nematodes (PCN) (Globodera pallida and G. rostochiensis) which can result in significant yield losses.

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‘Water efficiency crucial during prolonged dry summers’

Identifying hotspots and increased use of drip-feed irrigation equipment will be key to increased grower efficiency in the UK, minimising the toll on domestic water supply, and stopping the potential introduction of abstraction reforms, an expert has claimed. According to an article published by UK based trade magazine Potato Review, more than 50% of potatoes produced in the UK are irrigated, and in recent years the country has experienced reduced water availability and increased demand as a result of the hotter, drier summers, which are set to stay for the future.

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This week’s issue of Spud Scoop published

This week’s issue of Spud Scoop was published earlier today. Spud Scoop is a growing season newsletter compiled by specialists at NDSU Extension and University of Minnesota, combining information for potato growers. In the introduction, Dr Andy Robinson, Extension Potato Agronomist at NSDU and the University of Minnesota, says it’s been a week of warming temperatures and more rainfall in many areas. In general, the potato crop seems to be progressing well.

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The ‘natural dormancy’ factor: Independent data now available

A number of factors contribute to effective potato sprout suppression and, where possible, strategies should make the best use of all of them. One such factor is dormancy, say specialists at AHDB’s at Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research unit. The current data on varietal dormancy is of variable quality and AHDB has commissioned a trial to generate relative dormancy data from a range of varieties representative of the different end markets for potatoes.

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Automation made easy: Greentronic’s RiteWeight product now comes with enhanced features

Can you use an easy and accurate method for tracking loads and weights by date, field, variety, temperature, and cellar? According to Bill Menkveld at Ontario, Canada-based Greentronics, the company offers a solution. Greentronics recently added several new features to its well-known RiteWeight in-line conveyor scale product. These enhanced features were developed to assist potato growers with an easy process to automate their harvest and storage data recording.

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Storage life post-CIPC: AHDB specialists address key grower concerns

Three storage webinars hosted by AHDB in the UK in June were an opportunity for British growers and store managers to hear from the team of storage experts at Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research, as well as cleaning and agronomy specialists. To complement the webinar sessions AHDB answered some frequently asked questions around key topics of potato storage post CIPC in a news release issued today.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor/Publisher of Potato News Today


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