Dignitaries, researchers, and private sector representatives gathered this week in southwestern Georgia to celebrate the opening of potato seed model farm that will provide ideas, training and high-quality seed to potato farmers throughout the country. The seed model farm is one part of the USAID Potato Program in Georgia, a multi-faceted intervention to improve potato seed systems in the country. The International Potato Center (CIP) is leading the initiative.
With aphid migrations predicted to start imminently in the South of England and two to three weeks later in Scotland, potato growers must adopt a range of integrated pest management measures to minimise the yield and quality-robbing effects of the viruses that these airborne insects transmit, writes Ken Fletcher, editor at The Scottish Farmer, in this article.
Seed potato producers are leaving no stone unturned to slow the proliferation of virus in British stocks, with straw mulches and mineral oils set to compliment systemic insecticides as part of a robust integrated pest management (IPM) strategy this year, write Rob Jones and Lucy de la Pasture in this in-depth article, published by crop production magazine (CPM).
Agronomy expert: ‘Doing nothing is not an option – whole systems approach needed to reduce potato virus’
Writes Eric Anderson, Senior Agronomist at Scottish Agronomy: “We have sprayed ourselves into resistance, and we need to be bolder in adopting natural measures into pest management if we’re to secure the health and quality of seed potatoes in Great Britain. The prevalence of virus in seed stocks is challenging the industry and we are at a tipping point. It’s clear that insecticides are not doing the job on their own anymore and that we need to do something differently.”
In Russia, HZPC is using an unconventional strategy to secure its seed potato trade with the country for the future: In 2019, a small breeding company was set up to provide Russian contract growers with pre-basis seed potatoes. In 2020, the production of mini-tubers was added too. These choices were made due to Russia’s aim to be entirely self-supporting within its borders and completely shut out the import of seed potatoes in due course.
There seems to be little hope for an imminent agreement between the EU and the UK on mutual trade in seed potatoes. If no agreement is reached on the phytosanitary preconditions for import and export, there is a good chance that the export of seed potatoes from EU countries to the UK will be resolutely closed on 1 July. This is what Dick Hylkema, director of the Dutch Potato Organization (NAO) fears.
Potatoes in the United States and Canada are a commodity. When selecting varieties, the colour of the skin tends to be the primary consideration. As new managing director of HZPC Americas Corp, Jeff Scramlin sees opportunities to increase market share by highlighting the distinguishing characteristics such as cooking types, flavors and textures. These efforts should help to de-commoditize potatoes, create demand and increase value through the chain in North America.
This past winter, two well known potato pathologists stated that the incidence of Dickeya dianthicola is declining in the U.S., writes Dr Eugenia Banks, potato specialist at the Ontario Potato Board, in a recent article. Dr. Banks is of the opinion that additional novel and potentially high virulent soft rot species probably remain to be discovered, and this high level of diversity will hinder the development of tolerant potato varieties. “This is not good news!,” Dr. Banks says.
John Mary K Karugaba is a retired assistant forest officer in Uganda whose wife’s potato seed production project employed him after his retirement. His wife started Irish potato seed production in 2002. She gained expertise and her business was booming. When Karugaba retired, he joined her because the project pays better than salary.
Pakistan is poised to become self-sufficient in the production of high quality potato seed by mid-2022. The country is said to start producing high-quality, virus-free, third-generation potato seed with the help of aeroponic technology imported from South Korea. The move will reduce the import bill for potato seed, which is $400 million per annum. Aeroponics is a soilless method for producing high quality seed in a greenhouse.
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?
NFU Scotland has responded to the Scottish Government’s consultation on exporting Scottish seed potatoes to the Europe Union and Northern Ireland by calling for UK Governments to explore all possible avenues to reopen these markets. The union said that reciprocal arrangements, in accordance with the Trade and Cooperation Agreement (TCA), should be put in place as soon as possible, achieving equivalence across all imports and exports.
Although discussions are continuing between the UK and the EU on equivalence measures for seed potatoes it is very unlikely that any Scottish seed potatoes will be exported into Europe this season. Growers are having to make serious decisions on what and how much to plant for the coming season, according to Robert Doig of Caledonia Potatoes. He said the development was no surprise to him, but he was nevertheless disappointed by the decision.
Scotland accounted for 29% (608.7Kt) of what potato stocks remained in British grower ownership at the end of January. While there was a slight uplift in production in Scotland, much of the Scottish area grown is for seed production. Therefore, slower seed sales may account for some of this volume. There have been reports that many growers delayed their seed orders this year.
The UK government should consider a tit-for-tat response if Brussels continues to refuse access to British seed potatoes, according to farm leaders. Scottish, English and Welsh seed potato growers and traders are still unable to export to the EU as part of the Brexit fallout, causing millions of pounds in losses. The EU denied third country status for GB seed potatoes over concerns they would not remain
Kenya has applied for a Sh656 million (approx US$6 mil) grant from the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) to boost research on potato seed production and cut reliance on imports. The fund will be used to increase the availability of certified seed in the country and cut the imports of tubers, which has been blamed for introducing foreign pests in the country. Kenya
HZPC Americas Corp. hired Aron Derbidge as Sales and Key Account Manager, bringing with him over 10 years of experience developing and marketing seed potatoes in the U.S. and Canada.
Brexit has brought
In this week’s Scotland’s Larder column in The Scotsman, Catriona Thomson talks to Andrew Skea from Potato House about how Brexit is affecting the Scottish seed potato industry, about growing your own heritage spuds, to chit spuds or not, and more. Whether it is for baking, boiling, roasting, making chips or for mash, Andrew Skea knows a thing or two about the humble potato. Andrew explains that growing up,
An application to allow the resumption of British seed potato exports to Europe has been rejected by the European Commission. The UK Government had applied to the European Commission seeking a solution to the Brexit trade deal not including third-country equivalence for seed potatoes. Failure to secure the equivalence status put an end to all GB seed potato exports to Northern Ireland and Europe from January 1 this year.
HZPC’s CEO, Gerard Backx says: “What we can contribute are new varieties that can help to improve environmental impact in the future. We try to develop different disease resistances to make sure that our potatoes can be grown without or with a very reduced amount of pesticides. Of course, yield is important too, because if you can produce more product on the same amount of land with the same amount of energy, then you are more sustainable.”
The World Potato Congress will present its next webinar on Thursday, February 18, 2021 with Dr. Peter VanderZaag, a potato farmer in Canada and, due to COVID-19, now an “armchair consultant” involved with numerous potato projects in Asia and Africa. Dr. VanderZaag’s presentation will be entitled:
In this week
As the global population approaches 10 billion by 2050, agricultural production will need to increase by 60%. Yet with every 1
A potato seed merchant is counting the cost of a Brexit deal blow that will see him lose up to