Sustainability

Canadian potato growers hope mustard and arugula combo will prevent pests, make soil healthier

New research on Canada’s Prince Edward Island is using mustard and arugula to tackle pest problems in potato fields with a side benefit, farmers hope, of making the soil healthier at the same time. As the CBC’s Nancy Russell reports in this news story, the mustard in the field is called caliente rojo, and is specially bred to have high levels of glucosinolates, a natural component in many pungent plants including mustard, cabbage, and horseradish.

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McCain Australia and New Zealand going green

McCain Foods has released its sustainability strategy that centres on a global commitment to reduce CO2 emissions by 50 per cent and move out of coal to renewable electricity by 2030. Agriculture Director for Australia and New Zealand, Rod McLaren, said he was excited the company was going green. “The spotlight has been put squarely on the challenges being posed by climate change and our fragile global food systems,” he said.

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Saving our soil: New microbial technologies that keep soil healthy and us fed

Soil microbes are hard to see and understand, yet we know that they have a significant impact on plant health, your health, and the Earth’s health. New microbial research and technologies are beginning to change how we understand and direct the soil microbiome to increase soil fertility and plant health, which then help our understanding of your microbiome. In an article published by Genetic Literacy Project, Lucy Stitzer discusses four examples of new technologies from specialist companies that make our soil healthier.

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How to fertilise a potato crop: An African experience

Potato yields are highly-dependent on fertilizer use, but pinpointing the amount of fertilizer to be used can be a challenge, especially for smallholder farmers in Africa. This challenge is important in Rwanda where average potato yields are currently 8-10 tonnes per hectare (t/ha), compared to the 25-35 t/ha they might expect with improved potato varieties, better pest and disease management, and enhanced extension services and fertilizer use. 

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‘New plants for carbon farming’: Can breeders actually do it?

As agriculture looks to better farming practices to sequester more carbon, breeders look to make new crops to help, writes SeedWorld’s Joe Funk in this article. “Carbon sequestration”, he says, “it’s a buzzword that’s slowly trickling down into agriculture practices. But how could breeding for carbon farming actually help the industry?”

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Putting waste to work: Bacterial film made from potato processing plants’ waste used to strengthen soils

Washington State University researchers have used granules made from potato processing plants’ waste bacteria to strengthen soil, offering a new alternative to cement additives that are currently used to shore up soils for building and erosion control. The researchers added the granules containing a bacterial slime – called a biofilm – to the soil, allowing a more natural and less carbon-intensive way to strengthen the soils.

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Lay’s is building community soccer fields out of recycled potato chip bags

As the next generation of young soccer whizzes in South Africa breathlessly out-dribble opponents and score mesmerizing free kicks, many of those future Cristiano Ronaldos might already be showcasing those tricks on a pitch made of potato chip bags. Chips processor Lay’s is partnering with its longtime Champions League partner, UEFA, and grassroots soccer organization Streetfootballworld to provide the world’s first five soccer fields made out of potato chip bags.

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Canadian potato growers optimistic about regenerative ag goal

A McCain Foods pledge to by 2030 use only potatoes from farms that practise regenerative agriculture is an important step, but consumers need to keep asking questions and hold such companies accountable, an expert told Doug Ferguson of Western Producer. McCain Foods plans to implement three Farms of the Future around the world by 2025, including one in New Brunswick that is already operational, to test regenerative agriculture practices. The company’s focus on the future isn’t new for members of the Potato Growers of Alberta, said executive director Terence Hochstein.

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New report: Lamb Weston affirms commitment to sustainability, reducing agriculture footprint

Lamb Weston Holdings, Inc. issued its second annual Environmental, Social, Governance (ESG) report this week, which included new 2030 ESG goals. The company also announced that in partnership with European joint venture Lamb Weston / Meijer, the organizations have committed to the Science Based Targets initiative (SBTi) and will align carbon emissions targets to support the United Nations Paris Agreement.

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‘Time to rethink virus control in seed crops’

Trials are underway in Aberdeenshire aimed at rethinking the approaches growers take to controlling virus in seed potato crops, writes Dr Philip Burgess in this article published by The Scottish Farmer. He writes that the seed potato sector in Scotland underpins the whole of the GB potato industry, as well as exporting high-quality seed around the world. The natural advantages of the climate, which reduce the numbers of aphids which can carry virus, are well known.

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President and CEO of McCain Foods: ‘To save the world, start with fixing how we grow potatoes’

“It all begins on the farm. That plate of french fries you are about to enjoy began as a potato, grown and harvested from a family farm. Farms have always been at the heart of McCain Foods’ business. The success we have had is only possible because of what happens on the family farms with which we are fortunate to partner. But we need to have a frank discussion about the future of farming.” So says Max Koeune, President and CEO of McCain Foods in this article published by the Toronto Star.

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First AI virtual assistant created for sustainable farming

In the same way virtual assistants help us discover our next favorite song, a new software package has used advanced machine learning to help farmers and agronomists pinpoint what their crops and soils need to boost yield in a sustainable way. The scientific teams of Bayer Crop Science and Biome Makers tested and disclosed the first application of this groundbreaking technology on bioRxiv. The study and resulting scientific paper details the analysis of the soil microbiome to assess effectiveness of Bayer’s biological fungicide Minuet.

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Australian potato farmer’s sustainable farming focus

If you’ve been on the land for four generations already, you want to make sure you keep it going for the next one. In southern Victoria, Blowhard potato farmer Gary Crick is making sure he’s using the most sustainable practices so his farm can stay competitive, and to leave a strong legacy for his son, writes Alex Ford in this article published in The Transcontinental.

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McCain Foods’ tech innovation in Australia reduces water use by more than 100,000 litres per day

McCain Foods has installed its proprietary world-leading, technology in the form of a Pulsed Electric Field (PEF) generator, as part of the company’s latest upgrade to its Smithton plant in Tasmania, Australia. The PEF generator is another example of McCain’s commitment to producing more with less, as the $1.8 million project, which incorporates McCain’s proprietary technology, results in potatoes being pulsed with an electric field rather than steamed, slashing the plant’s energy and water usage.

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Europatat, other EU ag associations on pesticide use, Farm to Fork strategy

Following the first anniversary of the publication of the Farm to Fork Strategy by the European Commission, Europatat and twelve other association members of the Agri-Food Chain Roundtable on Plant Protection have co-signed an open letter on the importance of carrying out a comprehensive assessment before making any decisions about the reduction of pesticide use, including the target for 50% reduction of the use of chemicals.

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‘Farms of the Future’: McCain pledges to use only regeneratively-farmed potatoes by 2030

As part of today’s release of McCain’s 2020 Global Sustainability report the company is pledging that it will be implementing regenerative agricultural practices across 100 per cent of its global potato acreage by 2030. This transition will restore and protect soil health and quality and look to natural processes to control pests, prevent plant disease and strengthen crops against severe weather events.

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Multi-year project in Maine to improve soil health, potato yield and quality

Good soil is fundamental to growing healthy, productive, and profitable crops. Jay Hao, Professor of Plant Pathology for the University of Maine, is working to reduce pathogens and improve soil health, by planting rotational crops after potatoes. “Because the tubers stay in the soil, you face a lot of soil borne pathogens. That can cause a lot of diseases. So instead of controlling one disease versus multiple, we do the integrated way by using different crops as a nutrient input and also as a disease suppression strategy.”

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Tesco Ireland unveils first fully recyclable packaging trial for new season potatoes

Tesco has become the first retailer in Ireland to make its packaging for 1kg new season potatoes fully recyclable while also reducing the amount of paper used in its 2.5kg potato packaging. This step change on packaging will commence on a 12-week trial basis in 100 stores, with plans to roll out the changes to more products if successful. As one of Ireland’s favourite grocery items, this change will have a significant impact on reducing plastic waste.

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Using cutting-edge science to protect African farmers’ potato crops, incomes, and food security

In a blog post on Global Food for Thought, guest authors Chris Kennedy and Bob Easter examine how a collaborative effort to bring a disease-resistant potato variety to market in Africa can promote global food security. It has to start with good seed, they write. Their seed has to have the genetic traits to not only produce more grain or fruit or tubers, but it also has to have the traits that make the plant resistant to the crops’ natural enemies and climate threats.

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Why an integrated approach is key to tackling potato virus Y threat

Potato Virus Y is dealt with by a zero-tolerance policy at Albanwise Farming in North Yorkshire in the UK, where the specialist operation has 40ha of processing ware and 360ha of seed potatoes in the ground for 2021, consisting of 31 different varieties. “It has to be a belt and braces approach, but it doesn’t have to be all about insecticides. There are other ways to keep the guard up and we are making use of a whole range of techniques,” says Tom England, the company’s seed potato production manager.

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Tyrrells Crisps set to reduce carbon emissions by over 14% with switch to liquefied natural gas

One of the UK’s largest potato crisp manufacturers, Tyrrells, has taken its latest step in a continued sustainability drive by converting its energy supply to liquefied natural gas (LNG) which will reduce its carbon emissions by over 14% per year. Tyrrells produces over 86 million bags of crisps every year. With high energy demands to consider, the company wanted to find a way of increasing efficiencies in order to lower its carbon footprint.

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