Studies/Reports

Vegetable growers in the US rally to conquer COVID-19-induced challenges

The vegetable industry in 2020 is living through extraordinary times. The State of the Vegetable Industry survey that Growing Produce conducted this year gave invaluable insight into what you are experiencing when it comes to production issues, labor, and specialized areas like protected agriculture and technology. “When the government says you can’t have any customers, guess who becomes your customer? The government,” Kam Quarles, CEO of the National Potato Council (NPC) says. It’s only a short-term solution, he says.

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Disease risk for potato growers from alternaria and late blight this season

Following the second wettest winter on record across Britain, dealing with crop trash and volunteers has been difficult to tackle in the field. This will lead to an increased inoculum reservoir and a heightened risk for development of alternaria and late blight this season. Technical Manager at UPL UK & IE, and potato crop specialist, Don Pendergrast discusses further.

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UPGI: Idaho potato crop ‘second lowest since 1998, harvest expected to be down more than 6 million hundredweight’

In a June 30 report published by USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) it is estimated Idaho planted 300,000 acres this season, down by 10,000 acres from the prior year. The United Potato Growers of Idaho estimated a deeper cut in Idaho’s planted potato acreage, at 295,790 acres. “It will be the second lowest acreage since 1998. That’s good news,” said Rick Shawver, CEO of UPGI. Based on Idaho’s average potato yield, the acreage reduction could reduce the state’s harvest by more than 6 million hundredweight of spuds, according to Dan Hargraves, executive director of Southern Idaho Potato Cooperative.

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Analysis: Changing consumer trends in Britain

Farmers and the wider food supply chain are used to responding to changing consumer requirements. However, it is hard to recall a time when the consumer landscape changed quite as dramatically as over these last three months of lockdown. AHDB has been following these changes closely, so whether considering shopping behaviour or the rise of in-home eating, AHDB has been reporting on the key issues which affect the demand for sectors’ products. Within this article, David Swales, AHDB Head of Strategic Insight, summarises some of the key factors which shape consumer demand.

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Trending: ‘The Age of Agrochemicals is Ending – It’s Time for Agricultural Biotechnology’

As Europe moves to reduce its reliance on agrochemicals in the farming system over the next 10 years and beyond, a crucial question emerges: what replaces them? Agricultural biotechnology could provide the answer, writes Farhan Mitha in this insightful article published by Labiotech Insider. The use of agrochemicals — pesticides, fertilizers, and plant growth enhancers — has been crucial to humanity over the last century. Yet, their impact on the environment has become too profound to ignore, and they’re increasingly seen as 20th-century instruments that are ill-suited for 21st-century challenges.

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Opinion: ‘EU and US markets are an ocean apart’

While the US market has tightened over the last few weeks as orders from foodservice outlets return and shoppers continue to buy more potatoes and potato products for home consumption, there has been a decidedly weaker tone to the EU market as it becomes apparent that growers have not cut back plantings this year and the weather becomes more favourable for the growing crop. This observation is made by Cedric Porter, Editor of World Potato Markets.

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The Netherlands: Ware potato acres down, seed potato area up this season

This year, the total cultivation area for ware potatoes in the Netherlands has declined by nearly 1.8 thousand hectares to 77 thousand hectares (-2.3 percent), according to a report issued this week by Statistics Netherlands. According to information published in the report, areas planted for seed and starch potato use have increased slightly over the past twelve months; both by approximately 1 percent. The share of seed potatoes in the total potato area has continued to rise slightly again over the past year.

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Report: Potato market outlook for the UK

AHDB has published its report on the outlook for the British potato sector. Says Phil Bicknell, AHDB Market Intelligence Director: “Whenever I discuss our outlooks, there’s always one question that crops up – why bother, things will change, what do you do then? The answer is simple – we revisit our outlooks and update the numbers. Like any forecast, it’s based on a set of assumptions, and it’s inevitable that we’ll get new information and better data. In uncertain times, there’s always a reason to wait for more.” Potato News Today re-publish the AHDB market outlook for potatoes here, courtesy of AHDB.

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Pandemic impact: Why American potato farmers are stuck with billions of pounds of potatoes

When COVID-19 closed down restaurants and hotels, potatoes headed toward food service had nowhere to go. It had a chain effect down to processors and growers, trapping 1.5 billion pounds of potatoes in the supply chain. While farmers across Idaho and Montana have given away millions of potatoes, they’ve also been forced to destroy millions more. Business Insider visited a potato seed farm in Sheridan, Montana, to understand the emotional and financial impact this has had on farmers Peggy and Bill Buyan

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The humble potato: How it became a global food source and changed the world

A staple food for cultures across the globe, the tuber has emerged as a nutritional giant and the friend of peasants, rulers and sages. Even today, its possibilities are endless. So says Diego Arguedas Ortiz in an article published on the BBC’s website. He reference food historian Rebecca Earle’s observation in her book Feeding the People: The Politics of the Potato: “Despite its origins in the Andes, it’s an incredibly successful global food,” she writes, “It’s grown practically everywhere in the world, and practically everywhere, people consider it one of ‘our foods’.”

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Univ of Maine researchers want to enhance competitiveness of potato rotation crops

A team of University of Maine at Presque Isle faculty members and students have begun work in the Zillman Family Greenhouse on a research project funded by a $12,333 USDA Specialty Crops Block Grant. The project aims to support Maine potato growers by enhancing the competitiveness of potato rotation crops through cropping system innovations. The research team is working to determine if mycorrhizal inoculant can improve the seed yield and plant biomass of oat and barley varieties commonly grown as rotation crops by potato farmers in Maine.

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Report: The global potato market hits record highs

IndexBox has just published a new report: ‘World – Potato – Market Analysis, Forecast, Size, Trends and Insights’. We re-publish a part of a summary of the report’s key findings below – the full summary can be viewed on the IndexBox website. The report says that in 2019, the global potato market increased by 6% to $140.5B, rising for the third consecutive year after two years of decline. The market value increased at an average annual rate of +3.0% from 2007 to 2019; the trend pattern indicated some noticeable fluctuations being recorded throughout the analyzed period. Over the period under review, the global market hits record highs in 2019.

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Research breakthrough: Fast-maturing, resilient potatoes in Hutton researchers’ sights

New research by James Hutton Institute plant scientists has found that a specific protein encoded by the potato genome is a key component of tuberisation – the process by which the potato plant initiates and develops tubers. It is hoped that the genetic discovery will be harnessed by potato breeders to develop fast-maturing, more resilient potato varieties that will safeguard production in an era of climate change, work that is being taken forward with industry partners.

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AHDB: Dealing with aphids in Britain during 2020 and beyond

The management of aphids, particularly those that transmit viruses, has been a focus of concern for potato growers in recent seasons in Britain. AHDB (virtually) sat down with Crop Protection Senior Scientist for Pests, Dr Sue Cowgill, to talk monitoring, testing and research projects that will help growers manage the issue.

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Talking Biotech: Where did GMOs come from? Former Monsanto scientist Robb Fraley recounts the advent of biotech crops

On the five-year anniversary of the Talking Biotech podcast published on the Genetic Literacy Project (GLP) website, host and plant geneticist Kevin Folta sits down with former Monsanto chief technology officer Robb Fraley. He recalls the race to transform plants and his work as a leader at Monsanto. While the company did important work to advance crop biotechnology, Fraley says, Monsanto made little effort to explain genetic engineering to food companies, the media and consumers and was thus unprepared for the backlash against GMOs in the 1990s.

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IFA: Retail potato demand in Ireland remains buoyant; rain across Europe welcomed

The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) says in its latest potato report that retail demand in Ireland remains buoyant, and as restrictions ease further on June 29th and restaurants can re-open, growers are reminded to supply the peeling market where possible. Once again rainfall across Europe in the past week was welcomed. Not everyone has had rain and some areas including Northern Holland and parts of Eastern England remain very dry.

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Canadian crop report: Dry growing conditions coast to coast

United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC) has released its latest crop update. Kevin MacIsaac, General Manager, reports that the Canadian potato crop is in the “growing stage”. There is a recurring theme from coast to coast: It is dry – but the crop is not suffering yet because it is in the early stages of development, but does need rain soon. UPGC provides a snapshot of the crop status and market across Canada

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Desiccation research: Reaching skinset depends on a range of factors

You cannot use what’s happening above ground as a guide to what’s happening below, according to new research into alternative desiccants. A key finding from research work in the UK is that the rate of foliage desiccation does not correlate well with that of skinset, the key to harvesting without damage. The discovery was among the key findings of a project examining the best alternative desiccants to diquat carried out by NIAB CUF on behalf of AHDB in the UK. The research focused on the ‘hard to stop’ situations such as indeterminate varieties and seed crops.

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Tuberzone 2020: A precision approach to predicting potato tuber growth

The Tuberzone project addresses the benefits of using precision technology to optimise the value of seed potato crops in the UK. Tuberzone partners support the use of Tuberzone software, developed by SoilEssentials, to help farmers make decisions on when to stop tuber growth to maximise yield, quality and value of Gemson seed potatoes.

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New book digs into the political history of potatoes

Rebecca Earle, food historian and professor at the University of Warwick, has spent several years tracing the history of the potato from its early origins in the Andes to the commonly consumed starch that makes it onto kitchen tables around the world. In her latest book, Feeding the People: The Politics of the Potato, Earle explains the crop’s evolution to become today’s global staple, but also dives into how the vegetable became central to government dietary policy over the years.

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Agriculture, engagement with female potato farmers central focus of PepsiCo’s sustainability approach

PepsiCo released its 2019 sustainability report, Helping to Build a More Sustainable Food System, just last week. Nearly 80% of PepsiCo’s main crops – including potatoes, corn, oats and oranges – are sourced sustainably, up from 51% in 2018. Explicit inclusion of women in farming initiatives is good business for PepsiCo, according to Simon Lowden, Chief Sustainability Officer at PepsiCo. For instance, the company has engaged with female potato farmers in rural areas in many countries.

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Herbicides – a season of replacements for British potato growers

Over the last three years, potato growers lost the approval for the most commonly used herbicides: linuron (in 2017) and diquat (in 2019), AHDB Potatoes says in a news release. It says weed control management has become a challenge, which experts are now trying to resolve by researching alternative options at the Strategic Farms trials. During the trials at the AHDB SPot Farms, two herbicide options have come forward: Emerger (aclonifen), and Shark (carfentrazone-ethyl).

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Late blight resistant potatoes in Uganda promise impressive returns

Potato is a popular crop in Uganda with great potential for income generation and improving nutrition. So much so that the Ugandan government has declared potato a key crop for the country. In Uganda, International Potato Center (CIP) partners with the National Agriculture Research Organization (NARO) to release and promote improved varieties of potato and sweetpotato. NARO and CIP have developed a new version of the Victoria variety by adding three resistance genes (3R). The 3R Victoria potatoes are completely resistant to late blight.

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What is the value of using crop wild relatives in potato breeding?

It may surprise you to learn that wild potatoes grow like weeds in South America. While farmers in the United States battle weeds like pigweed and lamb’s quarters, farmers in the Andes Mountains have to keep weedy potatoes in check. There are over 100 wild potato species and breeders have just scratched the surface for new variety development. As climate change and a growing population put additional strains on potato growers, we will continue to explore the possibilities offered by this rich genetic resource.

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Staying on top of late blight: Canadian potato industry put spore trapping technology to work

On June 18 a crop consultant in Alberta told Eugenia Banks, Ontario potato specialist, that spore traps in the province had caught late blight spores. Ontario is going through a wave of hot and dry weather, and out west in Alberta, it’s the opposite with cooler, wet weather. In response to the discovery, of late blight in 2014, the Potato Growers of Alberta (PGA) supported a spore-trapping project. In Ontario, Eugenia Banks lead a two-year Ontario Potato Board project evaluating one type of spore trapping technology in order to help growers improve late blight management with good results.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher

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