Production/Agronomy

Potato blight warnings issued across the UK

Potato blight has raised its ugly head in parts of the UK late in the season, following a spate of turbulent weather, Corteva Agriscience’s field technical manager for potatoes, Craig Chisholm, reportedly received a flurry of calls from growers and advisors on how to protect crops late in the season. Catchy weather may well extend the intervals between spraying blight fungicides, so we are advising growers to use a product that will protect the canopy for 10 days,” he advised.

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Novel decision support tool under development for preventative in-field potato disease testing

Dr Sarah Sommer and her market research team is working on multiplexed potato virus lateral flow assays at the Newcastle University. The aim is to develop a simple but effective preventative disease testing kit that combines with a smart phone app. Sarah would like to know how the tool can be used in a practical environment and connect with interested potato industry people with whom she can discuss the concept, its further development and eventual application.

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‘British potato crops at risk of disease during slower desiccation’, say specialists

Potato growers in the UK are at risk of virus and disease threat if they do not follow an integrated approach to new desiccation regimes, say experts working on the third year of desiccation trials taking place across AHDB Farm Excellence sites. Results and observations at the trial sites have shown that the slower ‘kill’ achieved by the chemical and mechanical alternatives to diquat means that green stems and leaves can still be present up to three weeks after desiccation sprays. Even very small amounts of ‘green material’ remain a viable target for virus-carrying aphids and diseases.

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Dry weather, dusty fields growing concern in Maine’s potato country

Potato farmers are worried about their crops as the northern part of the state experiences one of the driest summers on record. In Aroostook County, which is experiencing a severe drought, there has been no heavy rain since before Memorial Day, potentially reducing the yield, said Don Flannery, executive director of the Maine Potato Board. The dry weather in northern Maine also stretches into New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, two potato-growing Canadian provinces.

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Latest 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, according to potato specialists at the UK’s AHDB. A key finding from the work is that the rate of potato 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.

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Drought hitting Canada’s Maritime farms hard, especially Prince Edward Island potato growers

Maritime farmers are starting to call this summer’s lack of rain “disastrous”. Famous for its potatoes, Prince Edward Island produces over a million kilograms of spuds every year, but this year is different. Over the last three months, some areas of P.E.I. have only received 15 per cent of its usual rainfall. Estimates suggest the harvest will be down 25 per cent — at a minimum. “Put that in perspective,” said Greg Donald, the general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board. “For all the potato farmers in P.E.I., that would be more than a $50 million dollar loss.” But there’s not much they can do to save their season.

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Down history lane: The first Spudnik ‘AirSep’ potato harvester marks the start of a potato equipment success story

Potato growre Matthew Porter approached Spudnik Equipment Company in Idaho in 2010 to see how he can increase the quality and reduce the bruising of the potatoes grown and harvested on his farm in the fertile but rocky soil of Maine. After a year of development efforts, Spudnik’s motivated engineers came up with a new technology and a solution for Matthew’s problem. It was called the ‘AirSep’. After a year of development efforts, Spudnik’s motivated engineers came up with a new technology and a solution for Matthew’s problem. It was called the ‘AirSep’.

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Webinar now online: Desiccation – how to apply diquat alternatives to potato crops

AHDB has published its 19 August webinar regarding potato desiccation online as a YouTube video. I shows pictures and video clips of commercial potato crops during haul destruction. It also contains tips and guidance from leading researchers on how to apply desiccants, and use mechanical alternatives to diquat for desiccation of potato crops. Trial results and observations from research into how to desiccate seed potato and ware potato crops without diquat are in the spotlight as well in the video.

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‘Soils In Practice’ event returns for its fourth annual conference in October

The Farmers Weekly’s ‘Soils In Practice’ is returning for its fourth annual conference in the UK on 21 October. Soils in Practice brings together experts and industry professionals from across the UK agricultural sector, providing a platform to discuss the latest advances in boosting soil fertility and best practice in soil management. The event aims to help farmers understand some of the practical steps that can be taken to measure and promote healthy soil in a sustainable farm setting.

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Blackleg in potato crops – filling the knowledge gaps

Blackleg is one of the most damaging bacterial plant diseases in the UK, responsible for annual losses of £50m for the British potato industry. AHDB says in a news article published today that it is supporting and funding multiple projects researching this disease. A project which started three years ago, looking at how to achieve better control of blackleg, will be completed this summer, while another one which will also last for three year is just starting. A large project which was co-funded by AHDB & Scottish Government is due to finish this summer.

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Young Farmer Podcast: Brandon and Ashley Bonk try new things to diversify and become more efficient

When Brandon and Ashley Bonk see an opportunity to grow their business, they take it. From 2007 to now, they’ve grown their farm in Magnolia, Del., from nothing to 5,500 acres. And while their focus is mostly on corn, soybeans and wheat, potatoes are becoming a bigger part of the business. “Sometimes you gotta stick your neck out and try something nobody else is doing. It’s a measure of risk I guess,” says Brandon, who started the farm with Ashley after graduating from Iowa State University with a degree in ag systems technology.

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Canada’s Alberta potato growers concerned as 2020 harvest gets underway

While the 2020 potato harvest is well underway in southern Alberta, the Potato Growers of Alberta say lingering concerns about global french fry markets due to COVID-19 is putting a bit of a damper on an otherwise joyful time of year for local potato farmers. “The 2019 crop is now complete and done,” says PGA executive director Terence Hochstein. “It has been processed. But due to the COVID situation, not only here in Canada but also in the U.S. and globally, there is no guarantee what we put in the shed this year will be used completely.

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How to make a potato store more efficient and get better sprout control

A well-sealed store will decrease your energy bills, and increase the efficiency on sprout suppressants like ethylene and spearmint oil. In this article, Adrian Cunnington, Head of Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research at AHDB Potatoes shares some tips for assessing and improving your potato store. The loss of approval of CIPC will inevitably mandate change within the potato industry. For many it may mean using alternative sprout suppressants. Others may choose to go chemical-free, moving to varieties with a longer dormancy period, or by storing at lower temperatures. For all though, optimising storage conditions and reducing operating costs are likely to be high priorities.

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UPGC report: Drought conditions in Eastern Canada; crop behind schedule in Western Canada

United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC) issued its latest crop update report today. General Manager, Kevin MacIsaac says at press time parts of Eastern Canada are facing moderate to severe drought conditions. Rainfall is critical for this crop. In Western Canada, the crop is running behind schedule as processors push to get new crop harvest underway. Prairie yields currently look average at best, MacIsaac reports.

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Burn down options: Attention to detail essential for successful potato desiccation

Following the withdrawal of the substance from the market in 2019 and a final use up date of February 4, 2020, for stocks left in store, Leigh McClean Development Adviser at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) advises Northern Ireland potato growers to consider alternative options for burn down this season. “Chemical alternatives still exist in the form of a group of herbicides called PPO inhibitors of which there are two products, Spotlight Plus (Carfentrazone) and Gozai (Pyraflufen-ethyl) registered for use in potatoes,” he said.

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Efforts to save East Africa’s potatoes from potato cyst nematodes

Scientists at CGIAR-IITA, working with the International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe) (under the joint Nematology Unit, NemAfrica, based in Nairobi), and their national and international partners have been at the forefront of efforts to address a new emerging pest threat to the production of potato in the East Africa region: potato cyst nematodes (PCN), These destructive pests can cause yield losses of up to 80%, and in some instances, even total crop failure, reports Kilimo News in a recent article.

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Breakthrough in soil analysis: ‘A library for understanding the soils of the world’

A breakthrough in how soils are analyzed, known as soil spectroscopy, is equipping both farmers and government decision-makers with a new tool in combatting land degradation and improving farmers’ crop yields and income. Soil spectroscopy analysis has proven to be faster, cheaper and more precise than conventional testing, giving agricultural producers at all scales vital information on how to improve their soils, in turn boosting crop yields and food production. The technology uses infrared electromagnetic radiation to measure how much energy the soil surface reflects at specific wavelengths, providing what scientists call a spectral signature.

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San Luis Valley potato growers optimistic for harvest

Despite 2020 being a difficult year in many respects, San Luis Valley potato growers have been able to raise a very good looking crop this season. The warmer than normal weather being one of the reasons for the healthy fields. “It’s been dry but irrigation supplies have held up pretty well. We did have a frost, it affected a few fields the first of July but I think the impact has been somewhat minimal,” said James Ehrlich who is the Executive Director for the Colorado Potato Administration Committee.

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Upcoming webinar to focus on harvest conditions and potato storage issues

Storing a potato crop isn’t a walk in the park and a poor harvest can make it even harder. Growers across Canada have experienced a wide range of harvest conditions over the last few years with the most notable having been the wet, cold conditions in Western Canada which gave growers harvest and storage problems. Canadian based potato magazine, Spud Smart, will host a webinar on August 27 that will look at how harvest conditions can affect spuds in storage and what you can do about it.

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Research to unravel blackleg and nematode interactions in potato crops

Scientists at the James Hutton Institute and partner organisations are working to understand the interactions between the pathogen Pectobacterium atrosepticum and an array of soil-microbe-crop interactions in the development of blackleg, one of the most damaging bacterial plant diseases in the UK, responsible for annual losses of £50m for the potato industry. The issue is at the heart of a £2m research project funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), Natural Environment Research Council (NERC), Defra and Scottish Government.

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Morrisons sets Haith its biggest ever challenge

Haith’s relationship with WM Morrison Produce plc dates back to the late 1990s, but it was in June 2017, that the supermarket set the company its biggest ever challenge. Realising that the layout of its Rushden factory was impacting on efficiencies, WM Morrison Produce’s head of operations Jason Kelly and managing director, Andrew Thornber arranged to meet Haith’s sales director, Duane Hill. Morrison’s wanted to modernise their Rushden facility, increase their potato packing capacity, improve product quality, grading accuracy and minimise forklift movements.

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Which haulm topper? AHDB Potatoes trialled four machines for potato desiccation

With growers in the UK no longer able to use diquat to desiccate their potato crops, AHDB Potatoes trialled four different haulm toppers at Strategic Potato (SPot) Farm North. You can also listen to an AHDB hosted podcast titled “Desiccation: solutions for the first season without Diquat”. AHDB Potatoes will be showing the results of trials from this year during two following upcoming webinars.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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