When potato farmers show the University of Idaho’s Pamela Hutchinson apparent early season damage from herbicides, she wonders if excess rainfall is to blame. “The last three years, I’ve been asked by growers farmers to go out in the field in the spring or early summer. They see what they thought was herbicide damage to potatoes before or right after emergence,” she said. “Unusual conditions during the spring probably are what drove what you would consider injury. That condition was excess rainfall.” Hutchinson, associate professor and potato cropping-systems weed scientist with UI Extension in Aberdeen, is studying how excess rainfall plays into potato injury and weed control.
Interest in the Idaho State Department of Agriculture’s annual specialty crop program was up considerably this year compared with last year. Sean Ellis of the Idaho Farm Bureau Federation reports that ISDA has announced it will award a total of $1.8 million this year to 17 different projects that aim to benefit specialty crop growers in Idaho. The University of Idaho, Idaho Potato Commission, and Idaho State University received grants for a variety of projects.
Widespread fungal disease in plants can be controlled with a commercially available chemical that has been primarily used in medicine until now. This discovery was made by scientists from Martin Luther University Halle-Wittenberg (MLU) and the University of the State of Paraná in Brazil. The team administered acetohydroxamic acid onto the plants, a substance also used to treat harmful bacteria in the human stomach, and which is known to inhibit the breakdown of urea. The acid was also found to be effective against numerous other pathogens which cause diseased plants, for example, late blight in potatoes.
As if the beleaguered potato and its growers don’t have enough diseases to contend with, a new potato disease was discovered by Chinese researchers on potato plants during the growing season and also on tubers during the storage period. The disease was identified in potatoes cultivated in Nileke County, Qitai County as well as other locations in Xinjiang province in China. The pathogen was identified by the researchers as Galactomyces candidum F12, identified on the Atlantic potato variety.
In a recent collaboration between the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences and the James Hutton institute, scientists identified a diploid wild potato with a high resistance to P. infestans, according to a press release issued by the American Phytopathological Society. “We found that the observed resistance in this wild potato was due to previously uncharacterized novel resistance genes,” explained Guangcun Li, one of the scientists involved in the study. “We also discovered that photosynthesis was inhibited to promote the immune response.”
A pilot project that could improve food security in Canada’s North got the green light Monday, according to a report by CBC News. Jackie Milne, president of the Northern Farm Training Institute in Hay River, received $50,000 in funding from the government of the Northwest Territories to work with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientists to identify the best potato seeds to produce potatoes in the North.
Cavendish Farms’ new Research Centre in New Annan, Prince Edward Island officially opened today with a ribbon cutting with Hon. Dennis King, Premier of Prince Edward Island, and company officials. The $12.5 million facility, which is fully funded by Cavendish Farms, is an investment in the sustainability of PEI’s all-important potato industry. “This is another step to help support potato growers and the potato industry on the Island,” said Robert K. Irving, President of Cavendish Farms. “Our goal is to help address the specific challenges faced by growers here on Prince Edward Island.”
PhD opportunity in Australia: ‘Development of molecular diagnostic tests to detect key plant parasitic cyst nematodes’
Details about this project are published on the Australasian Plant Pathology Society’s Jobnet. It entails the “Development of molecular diagnostic tests to detect key plant parasitic cyst nematodes in soil and in planta that impact Australian agricultural production and restrict market access”. This project proposes to build Victoria’s capability to detect and identify plant parasitic cyst nematodes using molecular techniques.
Historically, biotech has been primarily associated with food, addressing such issues as malnutrition and famine, writes Brian Colwell in this article published by Genetic Literacy Project (GLP). Colwell concludes his article saying: “Today, biotechnology is being used in countless areas including agriculture, bioremediation and forensics, where DNA fingerprinting is a common practice. Industry and medicine alike use the techniques of PCR, immunoassays and recombinant DNA. Genetic manipulation has been the primary reason that biology is now seen as the science of the future and biotechnology as one of the leading industries.”
The American Journal of Potato Research (AJPR) is the official journal of the Potato Association of America. This journal has 60 open access articles. Volume 97, issue 4, August 2020 can now be accessed online. Here is a sampling of some of the articles published in this issue.
A University of Idaho-led team will tackle a pair of viruses that cause major losses to the potato industry. In a press release issued by the University, it is said that U of I researcher and potato virus expert Alex Karasev will lead the project funded by a $5.8 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture National Institute for Food and Agriculture. The team of two dozen scientists will target potato virus Y (PVY) and potato mop top virus (PMTV) in seed potatoes, the first level of commercial potato production, and in potatoes grown for market.
Researchers in Canada’s Alberta province are studying how potato farmers and their crops could benefit from new irrigation technology. The industry and government supported project “Towards Climate-Robust Irrigation Water Management for Potato Production” is now in the second year of its 4-year run. The project is investigating if precision irrigation can help increase water use efficiency and potato crop yields in Alberta.
Wageningen UR in the Netherlands is now offering a PhD research opportunity – in principle a 4-year PhD position – for the study of potato sustainability. This project is said to be about understanding the effects of extreme weather events on potato development and on the yield and quality of the tubers. These effects can be viewed in relation to soil quality management and its implications for crop climate resistance and nutrient-use efficiency.
Plant protein discovery could reduce need for fertilizer and improve the tolerance of crops to climate change
Researchers at the University of Nottingham in the UK have discovered how a protein in plant roots controls the uptake of minerals and water, a finding which could improve the tolerance of agricultural crops to climate change and reduce the need for chemical fertilisers. The research shows that members of the blue copper proteins family, the Uclacyanins are vital in the formation of Casparian strips. These strips are essential structures that control mineral nutrient and water use efficiencies by forming tight seals between cells in plants, blocking nutrients and water leaking between.
The ADAPT project aims at identifying new breeding targets and matching potato varieties to specific challenging environmental growth conditions of the future, according to a press release issued by the University of Vienna. The ADAPT consortium has successfully launched the project “Accelerated Development of multiple-stress tolerAnt PoTato”, which aims at developing new strategies to make potatoes fit for the challenging growth conditions of the future. It will take place over the next four years with a total budget of 5 million Euro from the EU Horizon 2020 program.
Dr Sarah Sommer and her market research team is working on multiplexed potato virus lateral flow assays at the Newcastle University. The aim is to develop a simple but effective preventative disease testing kit that combines with a smart phone app. Sarah would like to know how the tool can be used in a practical environment and connect with interested potato industry people with whom she can discuss the concept, its further development and eventual application.
Blackleg is one of the most damaging bacterial plant diseases in the UK, responsible for annual losses of £50m for the British potato industry. AHDB says in a news article published today that it is supporting and funding multiple projects researching this disease. A project which started three years ago, looking at how to achieve better control of blackleg, will be completed this summer, while another one which will also last for three year is just starting. A large project which was co-funded by AHDB & Scottish Government is due to finish this summer.
With climate change heating up Canada’s crop land, identifying or developing new potato varieties that can grow in warmer temperatures is on the radar of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) researchers. Xiu-Qing Li of AAFC in Fredericton noticed that warmer summers are creating heat stress in Canadian potato crops. He began studying Canada’s current varieties to see which are the most heat-tolerant. He also hopes to identify the genes responsible for heat tolerance and to incorporate them into future varieties, either through genetic crosses or directional mutation.
Scientists at CGIAR-IITA, working with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) (under the joint Nematology Unit, NemAfrica, based in Nairobi), and their national and international partners have been at the forefront of efforts to address a new emerging pest threat to the production of potato in the East Africa region: potato cyst nematodes (PCN), These destructive pests can cause yield losses of up to 80%, and in some instances, even total crop failure, reports Kilimo News in a recent article.
A breakthrough in how soils are analyzed, known as soil spectroscopy, is equipping both farmers and government decision-makers with a new tool in combatting land degradation and improving farmers’ crop yields and income. Soil spectroscopy analysis has proven to be faster, cheaper and more precise than conventional testing, giving agricultural producers at all scales vital information on how to improve their soils, in turn boosting crop yields and food production. The technology uses infrared electromagnetic radiation to measure how much energy the soil surface reflects at specific wavelengths, providing what scientists call a spectral signature.
A new publication by scientists from the International Potato Center (CIP) highlights the usefulness of combining crop growth model, remote sensing, and plant ecophysiological tools to assess genetic efficiencies in potato landraces. In order to improve potato yield and yield prediction, a better understanding of potato physiology and modeling is needed, especially for the Andean region where climate change is affecting traditional farming practices and where potato is a staple food.
The expression “genetically modified organisms” (“GMOs”) is not only void of scientific value, but has negative effects on agricultural progress and food policy, writes Giovanni Molteni Tagliabue in this article published by European Scientist. According to Tagliabue, “Anti-GMOers” show a “peculiar, recurrent absence of logic when they demonize “GMOs” as a supposed whole… Tagliabue then cite examples from the US, the UK and the European Union to back up his argument, saying that “These stories have surely shown that “GMO(s)” is a misleading notion, a damaging meme that should dissolve: in time, it will be considered a subject as interesting as the sex of angels used to be.”