UK agri-tech company secures funding to research early detection of potato diseases and defects

Research scientist Dr Barbara dos Santos Correia, with support of B-hive Innovations, has been successful in her application for a Future Leaders Fellowship and will receive nearly £675,000 to support her TuberSense project – a four-year research programme that aims to detect diseases and defects in potato crops, using volatile biomarkers and innovative gas sensors to reduce food waste across the supply chain.

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Scottish potato trials plough on despite AHDB Potatoes’ demise

The team behind Scotland’s seed potato monitor farm near St Cyrus is undeterred by the lights going out at AHDB Potatoes. The four-year SPot Farm project may have been blighted by the imminent demise of the principal funder and the difficulty of industry engagement due to the pandemic, but the partners involved are upbeat and determined to plough on with field-scale trials and research for the original four-year term.

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Biochemistry offers path to help reduce losses during potato handling and storage

Massive losses in the United States’ number one vegetable crop, potatoes, aren’t only due to pests or drought, they’re due to damage in the handling and storage of potatoes over the months of storage on their way to the supermarket as fresh potatoes or as potato chips or fries. A biochemistry approach that seeks to identify genetic characteristics of the wound healing process in potatoes has had success in a project led by Dylan Kosma, a biochemist in the College of Agriculture, Biotechnology & Natural Resources at the University of Nevada, Reno.

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New weapons for tracking late blight

A North Carolina State University team has developed quick diagnostic tests to detect plant diseases before they show symptoms in the field. In particular, they have worked on technology for identifying Phytophthora infestans, which causes late blight in tomatoes and potatoes. This article highlights how that technology works and describes the benefits for producers.

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Food of the future? ‘Food generator’ turns plastic trash into edible protein

Two U.S. scientists have won a 1 million euro ($1.18 million) prize for creating a ‘food generator’ concept that turns plastics into protein. The 2021 Future Insight Prize went to Ting Lu, a professor of bioengineering at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign, and Stephen Techtmann, associate professor of biological sciences at Michigan Technological University, for their project. It uses microbes to degrade plastic waste and convert it into food.

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New University of Maine research hub to focus on Potato Virus Y

Greater understanding of the biology of one of the most destructive plant viruses to potato crops will be the focus of a research hub at the University of Maine that is part of a new $6.1 million institute focused on virology and host-virus dynamics, the University says in a news release. Data from studies of all virus systems will be compared and integrated to generate Rules of Life that drive variables such as species jump, virus harbor state, and more.

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James Hutton Institute proposes ‘Potato Innovation Hub’ based in Scotland

Scientists at the James Hutton Institute have outlined plans for a Potato Innovation and Translation Hub as a centre of excellence to translate innovation and research into solutions for the potato industry. The new hub will be based in Scotland but would have relevance and impact across all nations of the UK and beyond, providing multiple benefits for the potato industry. The next steps for the Potato Innovation and Translation Hub include consultations with industry.

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US researchers identify potato cultivars with a low glycemic index

A team of researchers at Montana State University and North Dakota State University recently reported on results of a study into potato varieties thought to have a low glycemic index (GI). The research team evaluated 60 potato cultivars to identify cultivars with low amylopectin – that are thought to have low GI potential. The researchers identified five most promising cultivars.

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Study: Potatoes to ensure higher quality diet for teenagers

ANI reports on a recent study conducted among people aged between nine to 18 years which suggested that eating potatoes can be an effective strategy to modestly improve intake of key shortfall nutrients. “The potato is a nutrient-dense vegetable that provides important, critically under-consumed nutrients to adolescent diets,” said Victor Fulgoni, co-author of the study.

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Cover crops: Measuring nitrogen in green manures

Both chemical fertilizers and cover crops can help build the nitrogen content in soil. But cover crops come with many other benefits, like improving soil structure and boosting beneficial microbes. Katherine Muller and her team are working on strategies to measure nitrogen fixation in breeding programs for two common cover crops: crimson clover and hairy vetch.

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Chipping, fresh market and french fry variety lines on display during Ontario open house event

The Elora Research Station in Ontario will host its annual open house event next Wednesday, August 11. Everyone who is interested in potato research is invited to come see the new variety demonstration plots in the field. Chipping, fresh market and french fry lines will be on display. This includes elite selections from the National Potato Breeding Program-AAFC, promising lines from Michigan State, Wisconsin and more.

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Researchers unveil innovative technology to treat plant pathogens and pests, including zebra chip disease

Researchers at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Agricultural Research Service (ARS) announced recently that they have found an innovative way to treat pathogens and pests in potato, citrus trees, and tomato plants without the use of antibiotics, zebra-chip disease in potato. They found that plants showed significant reduction of each pathogen or symptom development in response to FANA treatments.

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Research breakthrough creates crops that can grow 50% more potatoes, rice

Manipulating RNA can allow plants to yield dramatically more crops, as well as increasing drought tolerance, announced a group of scientists from the University of Chicago, Peking University and Guizhou University. In initial tests, adding a gene encoding for a protein called FTO to both potato and rice plants increased their yield by 50% in field tests. The plants grew significantly larger, produced longer root systems and were better able to tolerate drought stress.

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Scientists’ view on how to tackle worrying emerging potato blight strains

Breeders in Britain believe they have the tools to stay one step ahead of late blight in potatoes, despite concern about new and more aggressive strains emerging across Europe. Since 2000, researchers have had technology that allows rapid identification of any genetic changes – or new “clones” – in populations of Phytophthora infestans. In the Netherlands, Wageningen-based Solynta’s research team lead Michiel de Vries says it is now up to the breeding companies to develop resistant varieties.

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Canadian potato growers hope mustard and arugula combo will prevent pests, make soil healthier

New research on Canada’s Prince Edward Island is using mustard and arugula to tackle pest problems in potato fields with a side benefit, farmers hope, of making the soil healthier at the same time. As the CBC’s Nancy Russell reports in this news story, the mustard in the field is called caliente rojo, and is specially bred to have high levels of glucosinolates, a natural component in many pungent plants including mustard, cabbage, and horseradish.

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‘New plants for carbon farming’: Can breeders actually do it?

As agriculture looks to better farming practices to sequester more carbon, breeders look to make new crops to help, writes SeedWorld’s Joe Funk in this article. “Carbon sequestration”, he says, “it’s a buzzword that’s slowly trickling down into agriculture practices. But how could breeding for carbon farming actually help the industry?”

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Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research: What next?

In this AHDB Food & Farming podcast episode, Jimmy Phillips interviews Rob Clayton, AHDB Sector Strategy Director for Potatoes, to discuss how the planned wind down and transition of AHDB Potatoes activities will impact potato storage research. The voting outcome of the recent ballot on the statutory levy in potatoes means that research activity at the centre will stop this autumn.

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The pathogen with a ‘sharp knife’: Researchers discover how late blight enters plants

It has long been a mystery how this microscopically small organism and other members of the Phytophthora genus mechanically gain entry through the protective layer on the leaves of crops. In a unique collaboration, Wageningen University & Research experts in plant pathology, cell biology and physics have now found an answer to this question. Their discovery also provides new leads to making the control of Phytophthora more effective, more efficient and more sustainable on the long term.

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New discovery to have a profound impact on potato breeding

Researchers at the hybrid potato breeding company Solynta and Wageningen University & Research (WUR) have identified, cloned and characterized the gene for self-compatibility in potatoes called “Sli”. This discovery will have a profound impact on potato breeding. With Sli defined, breeders can implement hybrid breeding which will allow for faster and focused rather than opportunistic breeding. The technique could also help to quickly develop new potato varieties that are adapted to local conditions such as drought or flooding.

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Chinese scientists make breakthrough in potato breeding

A research team led by Professor Huang Sanwen with the Agricultural Genomics Institute at Shenzhen initiated the “Upotato Plan”, which utilized the theory and methods of genome design to carry out hybrid potato breeding, ‘re-inventing’ the potato from a clonally propagated tetraploid crop into an inbred line-based diploid crop, propagated by seeds.

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Webinar recording now online: ‘How to employ Automated Machine Learning to Predict the Best Quality Potato Chip/Crisp’

This webinar ran successfully on June 24th. JADBio’s Automated Machine Learning (AutoML) platform was applied to predict potatoes’ susceptibility to bruising and also its potential for coloration during french fry processing. The aim was to differentiate between potatoes that would be less prone to bruising from those that would more easily bruise during mechanical handling. Another goal was to successfully predict the potatoes’ potential susceptibility to acrylamide formation during processing due to the Maillard reaction.

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Study: Potato nutrients can help reduce sodium retention, may help reduce risk of hypertension

A new study published in Nutrients investigated the effect of increased dietary potassium from a whole food source – baked/boiled potatoes and baked French fries – or a potassium supplement on blood pressure and other cardiovascular disease risk factors compared to a ‘typical American’ control diet (lower potassium intake) among 30 pre-hypertensive to hypertensive men and women.

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Researchers say Irish potato famine pathogen stoked outbreaks on six continents

North Carolina State University researchers continue to track the evolution of different strains of the plant pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s, which set down roots in the United States before attacking Europe. NC State plant pathologists studied the genomes of about 140 pathogen samples – historic and modern – from 37 countries on six continents to track the evolution of differing strains of Phytophthora infestans, a major cause of late-blight disease on potato and tomato plants.

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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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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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