Research

Perfecting the potato chip

Each time a bag of potato chips is opened in the United States, there is a one in four chance that it’s filled with Michigan-grown potatoes. Michigan is the largest producer of potatoes grown for the potato chip industry in the US, A concerted effort made by industry stakeholders, spearheaded by Michigan State University Extension and MSU AgBioResearch, and coordinated by the Michigan Potato Industry Commission, has built a partnership that is growing the industry.

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Robert Graveland, HZPC: ‘Europe is not adding value to its variety innovations’

“Improving potato varieties is our company’s core business,” says Robert Graveland, HZPC’s Research Director. “We noticed we have not yet used many genetic variants. There is still a lot of potential in this.” To use this potential, speed and control are crucial, says Robert. One way to speed up the process is to use gene-adaptation, for example, CRISPR-CAS. That can, for instance, create resistance or make a variety salt or heat tolerant. Some laws in Europe define gene-editing legally as GMO, though.

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Leading the battle against nematodes

New weapons in the battle against the pale cyst nematode — a major potato pest that has cost US farmers millions of dollars since it was found in southeast Idaho in 2006 — include an effective bio-fumigant and a surprisingly efficient “trap crop.” Researchers are also making progress in developing PCN-resistant potato varieties. “Understanding the biology allows us to target the weak point in the life cycle,” said University of Idaho Associate Professor Louise-Marie Dandurand, project director of the Globodera Alliance.

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New British-made camera detects crop disease quickly

A new camera that will detect crop disease quickly and at a significantly lower cost has been developed by British researchers. The technology could potentially save farmers worldwide thousands of pounds in lost produce, while increasing crop yields. The camera will cost less than £1,000 – about a tenth of the cost of the crop cameras currently on the market.

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CIP and HZPC collaborate to develop new potato varieties suitable for Southeast Asia

This project builds on ongoing work by the International Potato Center (CIP) developing early-maturing potato varieties that are tolerant to high temperatures and resistant to major virus diseases, thus suitable for growing in tropical climates.In close collaboration with the Netherlands-based global potato seed company HZPC, this project is developing early-maturing varieties with good characteristics for cooking and processing that would be suitable for the local environmental conditions. Five advanced clone candidate varieties will be cultivated and evaluated at high and low altitudes in Vietnam.

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What lies beneath: WSU team studies three-way interaction between potatoes, powdery scab, and mop top virus

A team of Washington State University scientists are taking on a destructive complex of diseases affecting valuable potato crops. Over the last few years Washington’s potato industry has encountered a new threat: Potato mop top virus, a pathogen that lives in soil and attacks the tuber, darkening the flesh and making potatoes unsellable. Mop top is spread by a protist, a fungus-like microorganism, that causes a disease called powdery scab which blemishes valuable tubers as it infects neighboring plants.

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Potato power: Potatoes serve high quality plant protein that helps to maintain women’s muscles

Researchers from McMaster University have found that the potato, primarily known as a starchy vegetable, can be a source of high-quality protein that helps to maintain muscle. The findings, reported in the journal Nutrients, highlight the potential benefits of what is considered a non-traditional source of protein, particularly as dietary trends change and worldwide demand has increased for plant-based alternatives to animal-derived sources. This study provides evidence that the quality of proteins from plants can support muscle.

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Are potato plants sick or just thirsty?

A potato study utilizes irrigation system feedback to distinguish between “thirst” and disease. The three-year project is supported by the Texas Department of Agriculture Specialty Crop Block Grant program. “If you were just assuming it was a healthy plant, then you would put water on it. But if it is really a diseased plant, then putting water on it is not going to help at all. Matter of fact, it may make the disease worse,” according to Charlie Rush, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant pathologist.

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Potato and tomato blights in Europe: Multi-actor research is crucial for sustainable control

Didier Andrivon from INRA directs our thoughts to potato and tomato blights in Europe and argues that multi-actor research is crucial for sustainable control. Controlling blight epidemics have long relied almost exclusively on repeated applications of synthetic fungicides. It is not uncommon for potato crops to receive 15 or 20 sprays a season to keep blights at bay. However, this strategy while efficient, is not sustainable.

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Idaho potato researcher ends career with one more new variety

Jeff Stark’s retirement plans would just have to wait. With only two and a half weeks until his retirement, Stark was busy completing all the necessary paperwork for the release of the Galena Russet, a new potato variety. Stark had been the director of the University of Idaho’s Potato Variety Development Program since 2006 and he estimated that the Galena Russet potato variety was the 22nd or 23rd variety released during that time.

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CIP researchers designed a smartphone app for potato irrigation monitoring

Recent research by scientists and students from CIP and the Universidad Nacional Agraria La Molina, in Peru, confirmed that images from infrared (a.k.a. thermographic) cameras can be used to detect water stress in potato crops, and thereby guide more efficient water use. CIP scientists recently developed a new, more user-friendly version of TIPCIP for the smartphones.

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The Quikgro initiative: Developing resilient potato varieties suited for East Africa

Scientists of the James Hutton Institute, in collaboration with the University of St Andrews, are supporting a research project aimed at delivering food security and health for East Africa. The Quikgro initiative, which aims to develop potato varieties suited to the agronomic and environmental conditions of the region, is a key component of the project and will hopefully result in economic and social benefits for smallholder farmers.

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AHDB to launch tenders for future outsourcing of storage research

The AHDB Potatoes Board in the UK has been considering the long term future and succession plan for potato storage research in Britain. In a news report issued today, AHDB says “the board wants to ensure that we have continued access to the best people and ideas to deliver what the industry needs. We have recently concluded a process of market engagement with agri-science research institutions. The exercise has shown that there are a number of organisations interested in playing a more active role in storage research in the future.”

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Generations of insect attacks drive plants to ‘talk’ publicly

When a beetle larva bites into the leaf of a goldenrod plant …. [t]he bite damages the goldenrod …. causing it to launch molecular defenses against the insect and to emit a concoction of chemicals that change the physiology of goldenrod plants nearby. It’s as if the plants are communicating about the invader. Biologists first argued that trees and plants could “talk” to one another in the 1980s, but data supporting the idea were dismissed by many researchers as statistically sketchy. Over the past few decades, however, the scientific community has revised its opinion.

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CIP responds to COVID-19 pandemic

As the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) continues to spread around the world and disrupt the operations of many organizations, the International Potato Center (CIP) says in a recent press release it is now actively taking measures to ensure its staff, beneficiaries and partners remain healthy. CIP has national offices in 19 countries where the spread of coronavirus poses a substantial threat. It wants to make sure its work does not exacerbate the problem. As such, CIP has updated its operations policies and made certain recommendations to staff members.

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Screening for higher-yielding crop traits revolutionised

To drive progress toward higher-yielding crops, a team from the University of Illinois is revolutionising the ability to screen plants for key traits across an entire field, writes Hugo Claver, Web editor for Future Farming, in a recent article. The team analysed data collected with specialised hyperspectral cameras that capture part of the light spectrum (much of which is invisible to the human eye) that is reflected off the surface of plants. Using hyperspectral analysis, scientists can tease out meaningful information from these bands of reflected light to estimate traits related to photosynthesis.

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From hunger to profitable harvest: How GMO, CRISPR-edited plants can help curb $220 billion in annual crop losses

Plant diseases arguably pose the biggest threat to agriculture, exacting a dramatic economic toll and endangering the livelihoods of farmers all over the world, writes Steven Cerier in this article published by Genetic Literacy Project (GLP). Scientists in the Netherlands and Ireland have successfully carried out field trials of a disease-resistant genetically engineered potato. The new variety was created through a process of cisgenesis.

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The ‘Flight to Vitality’ project: A fresh perspective on potato growth

Neil Budko is an associate professor in the Numerical Analysis Group at TU Delft in the Netherlands. In this article he and his colleagues’ involvement in the “Flight to Vitality” seed potato project is explained in detail. With the Flight to Vitality project, HZPC and Averis Seeds want to jointly develop an objective test with which the vitality of batches of seed potatoes can be measured and predicted.

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Research study shows universally positive effect of cover crops on soil microbiome

Only a fraction of conventional row crop farmers grow cover crops after harvest, but a new global analysis from the University of Illinois shows the practice can boost soil microbial abundance by 27%. The result adds to cover crops’ reputation for nitrogen loss reduction, weed suppression, erosion control, and more. Although soil microbial abundance is less easily observed, it is a hugely important metric in estimating soil health.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher

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