Sustainability

Soil health: Regenerative techniques to be planned carefully, advises Agrii agronomist

Regenerative agriculture based on the least possible tillage is attracting growing interest across the UK for the opportunities it offers to improve soil health and resilience, increase farmland biodiversity, and cut carbon emissions. However, direct drilling experiences of the past make it essential to introduce regenerative techniques in carefully-planned way if a number of dangerous pitfalls are to be avoided, warns senior Agrii agronomist, Andrew Richards.

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Report: ‘Making carbon farming America’s next cash crop’

America’s farms were struggling just to make a profit even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but long-ignored soil practices could provide new revenue opportunities and long-term profitability for thousands of hard-hit farms across the US, according to a new report from E2 (Environmental Entrepreneurs). The new analysis details why the US’s downturned farm economy needs to make carbon farming America’s next cash crop.

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Post-emergence herbicide faces de-regulation if British growers don’t act

Commonly used on potatoes, beans, peas, linseed, and alliums, the chemistry of BASF’s bentazone post-emergence herbicide is absorbed through the leaves of target plants, disrupting the photosynthesis and causing a reduction in the carbohydrate reserves. However, it is highly soluble in water and mobile in soil. As such, bentazone has been detected in both ground and surface water for many years and whilst BASF and the wider agricultural industry has had a stewardship programme in place from 2014, records show no serious decline in the levels detected.

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Potato Soil Health Project: Webinar now available on demand

In this recorded webinar, hosted by Spudman magazine, you’ll hear from researchers for the USDA/SCRI funded Potato Soil Health Project and learn about what they’ve discovered through research. The panel will introduce three distinct aspects of the program. The webinar is now available to watch at your convenience.

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Soil debate: ‘Only 60 years of harvests left’ claim is a myth, says study

Claims that the world may have only 60 harvests remaining because of improper soil management are “overblown” and “absurd”, according to a new survey by the University of Oxford. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) reported in 2014 that global soils were degrading so rapidly that there may be only 60 harvests remaining. Hannah Ritchie, senior researcher at Oxford University said were a “myth” and there was no “scientific basis” for them.

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Sustainable packaging: New potato bags compostable at home

February is Potato Lover’s Month, and New England based Arrowfarms announced recently that its Morning Kiss Organic and Gold Bell companies are introducing new, compostable paper bag potato packaging. “Our new bags, which are fully compostable at home, fulfill a strong consumer demand for sustainable packaging,” says Michael Guptill of Morning Kiss Organic. “We hope retailers will join us in this effort to increase sustainable packaging offerings in stores.”

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Syngenta to use artificial intelligence to invent and develop new, more sustainable products

Syngenta Crop Protection is collaborating with artificial intelligence (AI) and deep learning company Insilico Medicine to accelerate the invention and development of new, more effective crop protection solutions that protect crops from diseases, weeds and pests, while also protecting ecosystems. By bringing new solutions to farmers faster and more efficiently through innovation, Syngenta will help them meet the ongoing challenges they face, in order to enhance productivity and meet global demand for affordable, quality food.

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How do different root structures affect soil? Root architecture, formation play key roles

Plant roots modify soil in different ways – depending on the root’s architecture. This Soil Science Society of America’s (SSSA) February 1st Soils Matter Blog explores plant roots and how plants modify soil in substantive ways. Blogger Jake Mowrer explains, “Plants modify soil. That is a fact. They spend a lot of energy doing it, and they do it to their own advantage. Organisms (which, of course, include plants) are even one of the five soil formation factors, along with climate, relief/topography, parent material, and time.”

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CIP: ‘Smarter food’ needed to end global hunger by 2030

Ending world hunger isn’t just about producing more food, argues Barbara Wells, of the International Potato Center (CIP). Feeding the world is more than just a numbers game. If food security were simply about volume, the global population would be fed 1.5 times over. Adding a secondary staple like potato to rice-based systems in Asia, for example, can help diversify existing cropping systems and offer new nutritional and economic benefits. Not only can agricultural science and research help bolster the nutritional value of staple crops, but it can also produce hardier varieties that can withstand pests and disease.

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Reduced-tillage potato production looks good on yield and quality

The amount and quality of the potatoes coming off Chad Berry’s field last fall weren’t that much different from one side to the other, but one half came with a lot less tillage. Results are in from the 2020 field-scale trial in Canada’s Manitoba province, which created a side-by-side comparison of conventional spring tillage and direct-seeded potatoes. Initial data out of this attempt to scale up reduced-tillage potato production looks good on yield and quality, which might open the door for other producers to look at the practice.

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The CEO of HZPC explains how he is making his company more sustainable

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.”

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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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PepsiCo doubles down on climate goal and pledges net-zero emissions by 2040

PepsiCo, Inc. today announced plans to more than double its science-based climate goal, targeting a reduction of absolute greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions across its value chain by more than 40% by 2030. In addition, the company has pledged to achieve net-zero emissions by 2040, one decade earlier than called for in the Paris Agreement. Specifically, PepsiCo plans to reduce absolute GHG emissions across its direct operations by 75% and its indirect value chain by 40% by 2030. This action is expected to result in the equivalent of taking more than five million cars off the road for a full year.

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Canada: Potato growers and researchers collaborate to implement sustainable farming practices

The Living Laboratories Initiative is a four-year research partnership between Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), farmers and environmental organizations, where research is co-developed and managed on farms to produce farming practices tailored to local environments. Launched in 2019, the Atlantic site – located in Prince Edward Island (PEI) – is the first-of-its-kind in Canada. Research at Living Lab – Atlantic is addressing several key areas impacting potato producers in PEI, including soil health, water quality management and crop productivity.

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A quarter of Kenyan potato farmers adopt more productive varieties

Africa’s first potato farmers were European settlers who introduced the crop in the late 1800s, but few Africans grew it before the mid-1950s. Since then, the tuber has taken off, with more than 25 million metric tons produced in Africa in 2017. According to the International Potato Center (CIP), potato is now the second most important food crop in Kenya after maize, grown by 800,000 small-scale farmers and generating employment for an estimated 2.5 million people along the value chain. Improved potato varieties introduced by CIP have the potential to significantly boost farm incomes.

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US agriculture industry bets on carbon as a new ‘cash crop’

US farmers make their living raising crops from the soil each year. Now, some are getting paid for putting something back into their fields: carbon. In an article published by the Wall Street Journal, correspondent Jacob Bunge writes that big agriculture companies including Bayer AG , Nutrien Ltd. and Cargill Inc. are jockeying with startups to encourage crop producers to adopt climate-friendly practices and develop farming-driven carbon markets.

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Nearly 3 million farmers in Asia embrace CIP-bred potatoes, raising revenues and resilience

An assessment published in 2018 found that 19% of the total land area devoted to potato production in these seven countries was planted with varieties bred at the International Potato Center (CIP) or by national partners in collaboration with CIP. Between 2008 and 2015, the area planted with those varieties more than doubled to 1.43 million hectares. Over the past 40 years, CIP scientists have helped 2.93 million potato farming households to produce more food and generate more income.

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Scottish potato firm cuts 27 tonnes of plastic from its packaging

Scottish potato business Scotty Brand has cut almost 27 tonnes of plastic from its packaging in a year. Scotty Brand said it introduced a raft of plastic-saving measures across its range to help protect the environment in September 2019 which included thinner, recyclable plastic on its 2kg potato bags, Baby Potato bags and Chippy Chip packs and removing trays inside its Baking Potato packs. In total, these steps have seen Scotty Brand save 26,890kg of plastic.

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The recyclable packaging trend: PepsiCo’s partnership with bioplastics manufacturer Danimer Scientific

PepsiCo joined forces with Danimer Scientific several years ago with the goal to develop sustainable flexible packaging, Danimer says in a news release published on its website. According to the release, Danimer Scientific developed biobased compostable packaging for PepsiCo’s snack brands in the past. The new initiative is said to be “right in line with PepsiCo’s announced strategy to make all of its packaging recoverable or recyclable.”

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2Blades Foundation: The quest to bring a durable, blight-resistant potato to African farmers

The 2Blades Foundation, a non-profit research organization based in the Chicago area, is a principal sponsor of a project that recently developed a durable solution for the late blight potato disease. The discovery is of historic importance, and now 2Blades is seeking partners to help bring this disease-resistant potato variety to market and fight hunger in East Africa. 2Blades Foundation says it is honored to have the support of the son of Robert F. Kennedy, businessman Chris Kennedy, for its African Potato Initiative.

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Supply chain sustainability the focus for McCain

Lockdown had led to a sudden shift from a crop shortfall following weather challenges last season to a surplus for potato giant McCain, as it lost 50 per cent of sales overnight. The last 10 years have thrown up multiple climate challenges for potato growers and McCain was looking to help create certainty for farmers and build supply chain resilience. Daniel Metheringham, McCain head of agriculture, said: “This time last year we were sat in the midst of a crop crisis because of weather volatility. When we hit Covid-19, all of a sudden we went from a crop shortfall to a crop surplus.”

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CIP Deputy Director warns of the dire consequences of a ‘crop pandemic’, biodiversity loss

As the impacts of climate change intensify — from water scarcity to raging fires and disease outbreaks — the ability to keep pace with demand for food will increasingly rely on crops adapted to new conditions. To achieve this crop breeders will need the full range of tools at their disposal. So says Oscar Ortiz, Deputy Director General for Research and Development at the International Potato Center (CIP) in Lima, Peru. Ortiz warns that biodiversity loss threatens national security.

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‘Fight the blight’: CIP developed an app to help potato farmers in developing countries reduce agrochemical use

Late blight disease remains the biggest threat to potato farming globally, causing USD billions of crop loss each year. In most areas, farmers can only grow potatoes if they regularly apply fungicides, which control the highly destructive pathogen but pose risks to the environment, farmers and their families. Scientists at the International Potato Center (CIP) have developed an easy-to-use decision support tool to help farmers optimize their fungicide use.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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