Research

Multimillion dollar programme in New Zealand aims to provide growers with a nitrogen management tool

Sustainable Vegetable Systems (SVS) is a $7.5 million dollar multi-tiered research programme, funded by New Zealand’s Ministry for Primary Industries, led and co-funded by Potatoes New Zealand in collaboration with the Vegetable Research & Innovation Board and Horticulture NZ. SVS provides the data and subsequent modelling of vegetable nutrient uptake and nitrogen leaching. Potatoes New Zealand recently uploaded three videos on its YouTube channel to explain the SVS programme goals and activities.

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Study in Canada’s Alberta province looking at rapid detection and early diagnosis of potato diseases

Results Driven Agriculture Research (RDAR) recently announced a project to establish a system for early and rapid diagnosis of all potato diseases, and provide Alberta potato growers a proactive surveillance platform. The outcomes from this project will benefit all Alberta’s potato producers and plant disease researchers. All results of this study will be publicly available for adoption and utilization by other commercial and research labs in the province.

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ADAPT: Field trials conducted in Austria to find stress-tolerant potato varieties

The Horizon 2020 EU project Accelerated Development of multiple-stress tolerAnt PoTato (ADAPT) aims at developing new strategies to make potatoes fit for the challenging growth conditions of the future. A total of 16 varieties were selected for trials in Austria with a focus on representing abiotic stress resistance. Eleven varieties obtained from potato breeders involved in ADAPT, namely HZPC, Solana, Meijer and NOES, are also being tested for drought and heat tolerance in Spain and the Netherlands.

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Viewpoint: Why the U.S. should sharply increase funding for intensive agriculture

The 20th century was a time of massive changes in US agriculture. From farmers scraping a living out of the land to run multi-thousand-acre operations. But after years of steady growth, public agricultural R&D funding in the United States is waning. Falling R&D investment threatens to forfeit the advantages and benefits of agricultural advancements in the face of increasing global competition.

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Hot potato! Canadian research into heat-tolerant potatoes builds on award-winning study

Helping producers find potato varieties that are more resistant to the potential disruption to growth caused by extreme heat is critical for ensuring the sustainability and profitability of potato production in Canada. Recognizing this need, Dr. Xiu-Qing Li, an Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) research scientist has been studying heat-stress in potatoes for years, leading to a number of breakthroughs in recent years.

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Company develops technology to produce egg protein in potatoes

Maya Sapir-Mir and Raya Liberman-Aloni, co-founders of the Israeli start-up PoLoPo, have developed a technology capable of producing egg protein (ovalbumin) in potatoes. PoLoPo believes that ovalbumin is ‘just the beginning’. “We also believe we have another product: a high-protein potato. Potato protein is highly commercial and has a lot of functionality, similar to ovalbumin.”

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New study: No association between potato consumption and elevated cardiometabolic disease risk

Researchers at Boston University examined the influence of potatoes as part of overall diet and lifestyle patterns on cardiometabolic disease risk. They found no change in cardiometabolic risk factors associated with intake of either fried or non-fried potatoes in adults from the long-running Framingham Heart Study (which began in 1971). This research was supported by the Alliance for Potato Research and Education (APRE).

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New broad-spectrum antibiotic comes from a pathogenic bacterium in potatoes

The growing threat of antimicrobial resistance has led researchers to search for new compounds everywhere, according to a news release issued by the American Society for Microbiology. This week in mBio, a multinational team of researchers in Europe report the discovery of a new antifungal antibiotic named solanimycin. The pathogenic potato bacterium Dickeya solani, which produces solanimycin, was first identified more than 15 years ago.

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Microbiome project: Tools to optimize potato microbiome could reduce the use of agrochemicals

A project aimed at developing new tools to predict and optimize potato plant growth by mapping the microorganisms living on seed potatoes has been awarded 940.000 Euro in funding. A promising strategy to reduce the use of these agrochemicals, is to optimize the composition of beneficial microorganisms living on the plant. These microorganisms support growth and strength, creating a natural defense mechanism for potato plants.

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Univ of Idaho researchers developing nematode resistant potatoes

University of Idaho researchers are introducing genes from a plant in the nightshade family into potatoes, seeking to develop spuds that resist harmful nematodes.  The plant, called ‘litchi tomato’, has natural resistance to several species of cyst and root-knot nematodes.  “That’s an unusual trait to have such broad resistance,” said Allan Caplan, associate professor in U of I’s Department of Plant Sciences who is involved in the project. 

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Playing the ‘wild card’: Is it possible that some wild potato relatives can help tame zebra chip disease?

A new study led by Texas A&M AgriLife researchers has revealed some resistance to zebra chip disease among certain wild species of potato. As Paul Schattenberg reports for AgriLife Today, the study of 52 wild potato species — of which one accession was resistant and three were tolerant to the disease — took place as part of an effort to identify novel genetic resistance to the disease, which affects potato production worldwide.

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Canadian ‘weed hunters’ set their sights on natural alternatives to herbicides

‘Weed hunters’? No, it’s not a joke. It’s a real concept that aims to tackle a serious and costly problem for farmers and their crops – herbicide resistance in weeds. The technique is called “abrasive or projectile weed control”. Using a sandblaster, natural materials like corn grit, corn gluten meal, and walnut shells are “shot” directly at weeds. Researchers found this alternative to herbicides was an effective way of killing weeds.

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A sensor that can ‘smell’: Researchers developed new biological sensor to detect soft rot in potato tubers

Researchers at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the Israel’s Volcani Institute successfully developed a biological sensor for early detection of hidden disease in potato tubers. The sensor relies on smart bioengineering and optics. When the sensor is exposed to an infected potato, a bacterial compound within lights up—with the strength of the luminescence indicating the concentration and composition of potato tuber soft rot.

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‘Net Zero Hectare’ project: British potato partners secure £2 million investment funding

UK fresh produce innovators have successfully won major funding towards collaborative research to sustainably change the way that potatoes are grown, stored and transported. The Net Zero Hectare project is led by the nation’s leading potato supplier Branston in partnership with B-hive Innovations, Crop Systems Ltd, The University of Lincoln, David Armstrong Farms, and Arbikie Distillery. The objective of the project is to investigate new methods to contribute towards a net zero carbon supply chain for potato crop.

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Are no-till potatoes a pipe-dream?

Initial trials by Dyson Farming and Groundswell Agronomy in the UK are highlighting how difficult potato production with zero-tillage is likely to be commercially, as Mike Abram reports for Farmers Weekly. But managing potato crops with reduced tillage, not zero tillage, while embracing other principles of regenerative agriculture is showing more promise.

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Plant Health Care signs agreement to conduct potato trials with Agrii in the UK

Plant Health Care PLC on Monday said it has entered a trials agreement with Agrii UK Ltd, under which Agrii will evaluate Plant Health’s PREtec technology, as Sophie Rose reports for Alliance News. “PREtec is a novel class of technology which stimulates a plants’ immune system to defend itself from a variety of abiotic stresses to improve plant health and yield,” the North Carolina-based agricultural products firm explained.

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Univ of Nevada researcher studying beneficial microbes, potato storage diseases

Masaki Shimono has joined the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources at the University of Nevada, Reno as a research scientist, studying beneficial microbes to improve and mitigate disease in potatoes during storage. He is looking into how long-term storage conditions affect potatoes in terms of water loss and disease decay due to plant pathogens. Soft and dry rot, caused by bacterium and fungus, respectively, are two important diseases being investigated.

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How can we improve soil health in potato cropping systems?

Minimizing soil disturbance is one of the key tenets promoted to build soil health in agricultural systems. Many farmers across the country have adopted reduced and no-till systems to build soil carbon, a central component to healthy soils. The Soil Science Society of America’s (SSSA) August 1st Soils Matter blog explores options to improve soil health for crops that grow underground – like potatoes.

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Maine’s foremost potato expert is bringing his expertise around the world

Potato farmers depend on Steve Johnson. At least they did for 34 years. Now Johnson, who retired on June 30, is taking his expertise to other parts of the world. He has harvested 33 consecutive crops of research potatoes, and pioneered an “electronic potato” that became the industry standard for calibrating harvesters to reduce bruising the crop in the field. He also has shared his expertise throughout Maine and across the world, in places like Australia, Guatemala and Macedonia.

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Univ of Idaho researcher’s model finding warmer temps favoring more volunteer spuds this year

A University of Idaho researcher’s predictive model shows soil temperatures last winter didn’t get cold enough throughout most of the state to kill volunteer potatoes in fields and spuds in cull piles. In addition to posing a weedy nuisance, volunteer potatoes and tubers that sprout in cull piles can provide a reservoir for pests such as nematodes and crop diseases such as viruses and late blight. Phillip Wharton, an associate professor in U of I’s Department of Entomology, Plant Pathology and Nematology, developed the model.

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Quest for novel fungicides: Researchers exploiting soil microbiomes in the fight against potato late blight

Natural organisms found in soil and their use as novel fungicides is being explored in a new collaborative project to help farmers overcome potato late blight. The work centres on utilising the latest cutting-edge technology to analyse soil microbiomes – the complex interaction of billions of microbial organisms found within soil. The aim is to identify bacteria with fungicidal properties against Phytophthora infestans, with a view to harvesting the active compounds.

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The ‘potato vine crusher’: New take on an old invention could help potato farmers crush the weed competition

Scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) tested the effectiveness of previously designed equipment, the ‘potato vine crusher’, on reducing common lambs quarter, redroot pigweed, barnyard grass, yellow foxtail and volunteer canola weeds that are found in potato crops. The results of the potato vine crusher’s ability to reduce weed pressure was impressive for Dr. McKenzie-Gopsill and his team at AAFC.

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PAA: Maine potato researcher honored internationally for his work

While many have heard of the Caribou Russet variety of potato, many may not know one of the faces behind it’s creation. Brian Bouchard spoke with one of the researchers who is being honored internationally for his work – Greg Porter, Professor of Agronomy for the University of Maine. He said he never intended to become a researcher. Porter received the Honorary Life Membership Award from the Potato Association of America (PAA), the highest award they can bestow.

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