Research

AHDB agrees a wind-down programme

The AHDB has announced a “managed wind-down” of its potatoes and horticulture work following industry votes to end statutory levies in the sectors – but growers will still have to fund the organisation during 2021-22. Funding will be provided for current research programmes to the end of contracts, and 42 of these contracts will end by March 2022. Otherwise all other activities for potatoes and horticulture during 2021-22 will be stopped at appropriate points in the growing season.

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Multi-year project in Maine to improve soil health, potato yield and quality

Good soil is fundamental to growing healthy, productive, and profitable crops. Jay Hao, Professor of Plant Pathology for the University of Maine, is working to reduce pathogens and improve soil health, by planting rotational crops after potatoes. “Because the tubers stay in the soil, you face a lot of soil borne pathogens. That can cause a lot of diseases. So instead of controlling one disease versus multiple, we do the integrated way by using different crops as a nutrient input and also as a disease suppression strategy.”

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Webinar: How to use artificial intelligence to quickly analyze data related to potato bruising and browning

During an upcoming webinar a team of researchers at JADBio will demonstrate how they applied the company’s Automated Machine Learning (AutoML) solution to quickly analyze a complex set of data during a recent project with different potato varieties. The researchers were able to successfully predict potatoes’ susceptibility to bruising as well as the potato samples’ potential for coloration during chip/crisp processing. The webinar will be presented by experts at JADBio, in partnership with Potato News Today. It is titled: “How to employ Automated Machine Learning to Predict the Best Quality Potato Chip/Crisp”.

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The ‘touchy-feely’ potato: Researchers developed bio-sensor to detect early signs of plant stress

In an effort to increase agricultural productivity and limit waste, a team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU)’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment developed a method to detect signs of stress before potato plants are damaged. By employing genetic engineering, the team introduced a new gene coded to a fluorescent protein that reports the level of reactive ‘oxygen specieses’ – highly reactive molecules whose accumulation signifies stress responses.

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‘A passion for potatoes’: Pioneering Colorado potato breeder Dave Holm retires

Dave Holm was destined to work with potatoes. He was raised on a potato farm in southeast Idaho, where his dad and grandfather instilled in him a love of one of the world’s most important crops. His interest extends to the complexities of the tubers, as well as their nutritional properties. This June, Holm will retire after 43 years of service to Colorado State University’s San Luis Valley Research Center and Department of Horticulture and Landscape Architecture.

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Can extracts from northern-hardwood trees become a substitute for CIPC? Canadian researchers think so

Chlorpropham (or CIPC) is widely used as a sprout suppressing agrochemical applied to stored potatoes almost globally, although its use has been banned by the EU not long ago. It is expected to be banned in Canada as well in future. Researchers in Quebec are optimistic about the anti-sprouting properties of extracts from black spruce, yellow birch and balsam fir that grow in northern-hardwood forests.

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Sweden’s Starch Producers ready to put CRISPR to work in developing ‘new climate-smart potato varieties’

Sweden’s Starch Producers organization expressed a very positive view about this conclusion from the European Commission’s study into new genomic techniques, and of the fresh optimism that it will now potentially be possible to use the CRISPR technique. Sweden’s Starch Producers will now be able to commercialise the efforts it has made in this field within the EU. They began a drive to use the CRISPR technique to develop new, climate-smart varieties of seed potatoes in 2014. The new varieties are now being cultivated for the second year.

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Interseeding cultivation method shows early promise to reduce nitrate leaching

A two-year project funded through the University of Wisconsin-Water Resources Institute is investigating an interseeding cultivation method for potato cropping that shows early promise to reduce nitrate leaching. Researcher Kevin Masarik from UW-Stevens Point is pursuing what he termed an outside-the-box idea – interseeding rye, oat and millet between the rows of potatoes to create biomass to take up excess nitrates.

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AHDB: ‘What we’ve learned from 17 years of Fight Against Blight data’

AHDB’s Fight Against Blight programme started in 2004 and since then ‘blight scouts’ have sent in over 10,000 samples of potentially blight infested potato plants for genotyping. Each year the results are published because knowing the location of outbreaks and the dominant genotypes, allows for better prevention of the disease. This has been particularly valuable when genotypes behave differently to the norm, for example if they are insensitive to a certain treatment, or if they aggressively reproduce more quickly than typical spray cycles.

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Canadian researcher leading the fight against blackleg of potato

Dr. Michele Konschuh, a research associate in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Lethbridge in Canada’s Alberta province, is leading a study to help ensure Alberta’s potato industry stays healthy. Blackleg is caused by Pectobacterium and Dickeya bacteria. Of the two, Dickeya is especially aggressive. “The one we have in Alberta is caused by Pectobacterium species. At this time, we have no Dickeya and we want to keep it that way,” says Konschuh.

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Late blight studies reveal evolution of potato disease in Europe and Asia

Plant scientists at the James Hutton Institute are studying the evolution of late blight in potato by working with industry and research partners to track the distribution and diversity of dominant clones in Europe in 2020, and have also contributed to a review into the development of the disease in Asia in the last 150 years, as part of global efforts to improve the sustainable production of healthy potato crops.

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21st EAPR Triennial Conference postponed to 2022

For the sake of the health of conference participants and in consideration of the dynamically changing realities related to the COVID 19 pandemic, EAPR President Jadwiga Śliwka and the organizers have announced today that they have decided to postpone the 21st EAPR Triennial Conference. The new conference dates are now 4-8 July 2022. The Conference will be held in the International Exhibition and Convention Centre EXPO Kraków, former capital of Poland.

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Can buckwheat be the new top crop on the rotation block?

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) researchers are encouraging farmers to buck the trend and use buckwheat as a triple threat crop. In addition to its high nutritional value, the fast growing crop is proving to be beneficial in suppressing pests such as wireworms in potatoes, and preventing soil diseases.

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‘Plant-speak’: Scientists developed device to ‘communicate’ with plants

A team of scientists led by Nanyang Technological University in Singapore (NTU Singapore) has developed a device that can deliver electrical signals to and from plants, opening the door to new technologies that make use of plants. The NTU team developed their plant ‘communication’ device by attaching a conformable electrode (a piece of conductive material) on the surface of a Venus flytrap plant using a soft and sticky adhesive known as hydrogel. The NTU team is looking to devise other applications using an improved version of their plant ‘communication’ device.

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‘Thievery’: First known gene transfer from plant to insect identified

A pernicious agricultural pest owes some of its success to a gene pilfered from its plant host millions of years ago. The research finding is the first known example of a natural gene transfer from a plant to an insect. It also explains one reason why the sweet potato whitefly Bemisia tabaci is so adept at munching on crops: the gene that it swiped from plants long ago enables it to neutralize a toxin that some plants produce to defend against insects.

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Canadian researchers pursue anti-virulence strategy in fight against common scab, antibiotic resistant bacteria

In the ongoing war against antibiotic resistant bacteria, a change in battle tactics may prove effective for controlling common scab of potatoes and potentially other toxins that affect humans and animals, according to Canadian Light Source Inc. The approach that Dr. Rod Merrill at the University of Guelph and his research group are pursuing is an anti-virulence strategy – finding or designing small molecules that inhibit the tools bacteria use to colonize the host and create infection.

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Idaho potato industry benefits from state program that spurs ag innovations

The Idaho Global Entrepreneurial Mission (IGEM) program has spurred many agricultural innovations that promise to help the Gem State’s farmers and ranchers improve their bottom lines. IGEM projects are now helping the state’s potato industry remove harmful pathogens in storage and to better scout fields for a disease that’s especially problematic for seed growers, potato virus Y. A third project aims to help the chipping industry reduce levels of acrylamide.

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The future of potato breeding? UMaine professors trying to develop potato varieties using new DNA-based tools

Two professors at the University of Maine in Orono are working on breeding new potato varieties. Hannah Yechivi reports for News Center Maine that professor of crop ecology and management in the School of Food and Agriculture, Dr. Greg Porter, and assistant professor of plant genetics with the School of Biology and Ecology Dr. Han Tan are studying how to make more varieties using a new DNA-based tool.

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Finding the ‘sprightly spud’: HZPC’s search for the secret to seed potato vitality

Since 2018, HZPC and Averis Seeds have been collaborating in the “Flight to Vitality” research project. It is a quest for the factors that influence the germination capacity – and therefore the vitality – of seed potatoes. At the end of 2021, when the practical investigation is completed, the company says it is hoping that the mystery will be solved. The answer to one question has always remained unanswered: how is it possible that seed potatoes sometimes grow much better and faster than at other times?

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Researchers review the spread of late blight across Asia over a century and a half

Researchers Sanjoy Guha Roy, Tanmoy Dey, David E. L. Cooke and Louise R. Cooke recently published this review in the journal Plant Pathology. In a news article for the The British Society for Plant Pathology (BSPP) the research team writes they have scoured the literature to report on the dynamics of Phytophthora infestans (1870-2020) that has shadowed the expansion of potato cropping.

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Breakthrough research: Wastewater from potato processing plants could be used in the recycling of high-tech devices

Every year, it takes millions of gallons of water to clean, peel and slice Idaho’s potatoes before they’re processed into any number of products from tater tots and animal feed to industrial starch. As a result, Idaho potato processors must treat and dispose of a large amount of wastewater that contains organic matter, silt and sand. But now, new research from Idaho National Laboratory suggests that potato wastewater might serve well as a low-cost food source for a special bacterium that could be used to recycle high-tech devices.

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UK: New Strategic Potato (SPot) Farm field experiments to focus on growing a quality crop

AHDB Potatoes announced today that L P Ollier & Son, Knutsford, has agreed to host a number of field experiments as part of the 2021 Strategic Potato Farm programme. Senior Knowledge Exchange Manager for the North of England, Graham Bannister said: “This year’s theme has an emphasis on growing a quality crop, based around nutrition, storage and where appropriate, alternative IPM methods.

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Webinar – ‘Late Blight: 175 years of experience. What have we learned? An update’

This webinar will be hosted by World Potato Congress Inc, and presented by Albert Schirring of Bayer AG on March 31, 2021 at 09:00 a.m. Eastern Standard Time. During his presentation, Albert Schirring will discuss the key principles of robust late blight management strategies. He will also focus on the global population dynamics of the late blight pathogen to improve fungicide resistance management strategies.

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