Studies/Reports

WUR researcher: ‘Early blight spread a warning to potato growers across Europe’

Across Europe growers are being encouraged to give greater thought to how they protect crops against early blight (Alternaria spp.). Speaking at the Bayer potato conference via video link from his office in the Netherlands, Bert Evenhuis of Wageningen University & Research, reported that a novel genotype of Alternaria solani has shown itself to be more aggressive than wild relatives and less well controlled by products containing pyraclostrobin, azoxystrobin and famoxadone.

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2021 British potato area set to decline?

The last 12 months have really taken their toll on potato markets. The coronavirus pandemic happened at one of the worst points within the potato growing cycle, and there was not much growers could do to reduce their area. Many growers may be thinking of reducing their area for 2021. How much could the area reduce by?

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Research: AI model successfully predicts potato susceptibility to bruising and acrylamide formation

JADBio is an information technology company based in the US and Greece, focused on BioMed and Multi-omics. In a recent experiment, researchers at JADBio collected data from 478 potato samples from potatoes grown in Germany (including climate, soil, and metabolic profiles) in order to create a model capable of differentiating potatoes that resist bruising from those that don’t, and also to predict the potatoes’ susceptibility to acrylamide formation during chip/crisp processing.

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Research: ‘Tunable crops are just a spray away’

The genetic control of crop growth and behaviour can be modified through traditional plant breeding or genetic engineering, but is fixed once a variety is sown. New spray-on viral transfection technology can transiently alter gene expression to “fine-tune” agronomic traits within the season while avoiding modifications to the genome according to recent research.

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Zebrachip disease and potato psyllid: EFSA survey card helps preparing surveillance plans

Scientists recently updated the pest survey card that was prepared in the context of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) mandate on plant pest surveillance at the request of the European Commission. The authors say in the introduction to the document that its purpose is to guide the Member States in preparing data and information required for surveys of the causal agent of the zebra chip disease

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New research identifies best gene to confer durable resistance to late blight in potato

An international team of researchers has struck an important blow in the ongoing evolutionary arms race with the notorious potato disease late blight (Phytophthora infestans). This disease, which caused the Irish potato famine in the 1840s, continues to reduce potato yields today and can lead to devastating losses. A new gene and it’s relatives were found in the Solanum americanum plant and seem to provide potatoes resistance against all races of P. infestans . A publication on the new Rpi-amr1-gene appears today in the journal Nature Plants.

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2021 starts out quieter for UK potato markets

January has been a quieter month for potato markets. For most in the market, it has been more subdued than historically. Following the EU-exit agreement, exports of fresh potatoes have been able to continue, although there was some disruption at ports at the start of the month, reports AHDB Analyst Alex Cook. Processing sectors have seen reductions to demand levels from December. The market has been hit hard by the national closure of education sectors alongside dine-in hospitality.

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Varietal resistance to late blight: Most popular varieties in the UK assessed

Varietal resistance to late blight, including the newer strains which have become prevalent, can still make a real difference to control, David Wilson, AHDB Knowledge Exchange Manager Potatoes in the UK told the online audience at the December 2020 Agronomy Week event. Performance of some of the most popular varieties were assessed with demonstration trials held by the AHDB at Eurofins in 2019.

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Idaho potato expert advises growers on minimizing tuber bruising

Nora Olsen, Professor and Extension Potato Specialist at the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Idaho, presented on the factors that impact development of bruises during the online annual Idaho Potato Conference last month. Prof Olsen started out by saying that her and her colleagues’ experience evaluating quality losses over the past several years, points to the primary association with either a direct impact, blackspot bruise or shadow bruise, or an indirect impact.

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New decision-making tool to calculate tuber numbers, predict yield

Growers should soon be able to assess the variation in potato plant populations at field scale at any given time. This is thanks to work done by Harper Adams University, AHDB funded PhD student Joseph Mhango. His new decision-making tool uses artificial intelligence known as Deep Learning alongside drone-taken images of the crops to calculate stem numbers, and map where they occur. This technique is able to detect objects, and is used for machine vision in self-driving cars.

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‘A better tuber rotter’: Pectobacterium parmentieri

Dr Eugenia Banks, potato specialist with the Ontario Potato Board in Canada, says in a recent email newsletter that Dr Steve Johnson (University of Maine) will give the first presentation of the upcoming Ontario Potato Webinars on March 4th at 11 a.m. His presentation will be titled “Expect Soft Rot and Blackleg to Increase!” Dr Johnson will focus on a very aggressive bacterium that cause soft rot and blackleg – Pectobacterium parmentieri. Dr Banks wrote a brief article about this bacterium – we publish it here with her permission.

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Specialist opinion: Common scab revisited

In 2017 and 2018 Dr Eugenia Banks, Potato Specialist with the Ontario Potato Board in Canada, conducted common scab research that included the identification of the common scab bacteria present in Ontario potato fields. Dr Banks sampled 50 fields and submitted the soil samples to A & L Laboratories. A&L identified the different scab bacterium species using PCR. The results of the PCR tests indicated that Streptomyces stelliscabiei was the most common bacteria found followed by S. scabiei.

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Where is the IPM potential for virus-vectoring aphid pests?

Addressing the increasing virus problem faced by seed potato growers may call for a re-think on how drills are planned and the implementation of effective IPM strategies to help combat the risk of virus-vectoring aphids developing insecticide resistance. Innovative research, led by Eric Anderson of Scottish Agronomy, has shown sowing spring barley around headlands and wildflowers along tramlines of seed potato fields can help to reduce virus incidence.

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COVID impact: Potato end-Nov stocks in Britain increase above five year average

Grower held potato stocks in Britain, as at the end of November 2020, are estimated to total 3.27Mt. This is up 12.5% (363Kt) from 2019 and 4.7% (147Kt) to the 5-year average (2015-2019). An increase in GB stocks will be no surprise to many. The 2020/21 season has seen increased production alongside lacklustre demand from the impacts of the ongoing global pandemic. However, the detail shows some sectoral differences.

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Novel research by Australian farmers to turn waste into biohydrogen fuel and fertiliser

Trials to turn waste from potato farms into fertiliser and energy are underway in regional Victoria in a bid to be environmentally friendly and lower the costs for farmers. Jane McNaughton and Steve Martin of ABC Ballarat reports on this research and development project based in Mollongghip, between Ballarat and Daylesford, that aims to convert agricultural waste, known as biomass, into hydrogen.

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The potato market: Understand your breakeven point

The potato market is notoriously volatile with huge yearly peaks and troughs. The volatile nature of potato pricing is, to some extent, related to the weather which is rather unpredictable. This is more so relevant in potatoes than most other UK crops because of the domestic nature of potato markets with very little global trade. This makes it hard to plan long-term profitability. So says Alex Cook, AHDB Analyst Potatoes & Cereals and Oilseeds, in this article.

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Dietary Guidelines for Americans: ‘Make every bite count with potatoes’

Potatoes help support the Dietary Guidelines for Americans’ recommendation for increased nutrient-dense vegetable consumption. Says John Toaspern, Potatoes USA Chief Marketing Officer: “It’s official: the latest Dietary Guidelines for Americans have yet again confirmed the importance of eating more vegetables such as potatoes that provide potassium and vitamin C. The 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations focus on increased nutrient-dense vegetable consumption.

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The puzzle of non-host resistance: Why do pathogens harm some plants but not others?

People have puzzled for years why pathogen Phytophthora infestans causes the devastating late blight disease on potatoes, but has no effect at all on plants like apple or cucumber. How are apple trees and cucumber plants able to completely shake off this devastating pathogen? Agricultural scientists have wondered for years: if this resistance is so complete and persists over so many generations, is there some way we could transfer it to susceptible plants and thereby stop the disease?

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UK: Strategic Potato (SPot) Farms Results Week – Harvest 2020

AHDB Potatoes in the UK invites everyone for a week of online events exploring the work from its Strategic Potato (SPot) Farms from January 19 – 21. Online sessions hosted by AHDB will bring the growers, agronomists and researchers who have delivered field trials in 2020 together to discuss the work, deliver results and talk about what they learned. AHDB’s SPot Farms this year grew everything from certified seed, through salads to maincrop for the fresh and processing markets. With a range of geographical locations, soil types and challenges – there is something to learn for all growers.

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Food technology expert: New Maine potato varieties ‘have much lower levels of acrylamide than Russet Burbank’

Food technology and human nutrition specialist at the University of Maine, Professor Mary Ellen Camire, has some good news about french fries. Those made with the new potato varieties AF4296-3 and Easton have much lower levels of the probable carcinogen acrylamide than those made with the popular Russet Burbank variety. Camire, conducted a pilot study in this regard with colleagues, including Gregory Porter, who heads the UMaine potato breeding and variety development program.

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