Weather/Climate

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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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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Climate-smart varieties: Genetic marker for late blight expedites breeding from 10 to 5 years

As the global population approaches 10 billion by 2050, agricultural production will need to increase by 60%. Yet with every 1°C of warming, agricultural productivity is projected to fall by 5%. One model predicts that potato yields could decrease by as much as 32% by 2060, but the development and distribution of climate-smart varieties can ensure that this nutritious and fast-maturing crop continues to play a vital role in food systems in economies worldwide. To accelerate the development of those varieties, scientists have taken advantage of advances in genetic sequencing,

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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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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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Irish potato crop down after an ‘unusual and variable season’

“What an unusual and variable season 2020 has been,” writes Teagasc potato specialist Shay Phelan in the December issue of the Teagasc potato newsletter. Phelan writes that most growers were able to plant crops earlier than normal, but late frost, followed by severe drought in some areas, excess rainfall in July/August and again in late October made growing the crop very tricky for all growers. Yields recorded show a significant decrease on the 2019 crop and tuber numbers were low.

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Survey: ‘Developing multiple-stress tolerant potatoes for the European industry’

This research is part of the ADAPT (“Accelerated Development of multiple-stress tolerant potato”) project, funded by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program. It is a joint effort involving public and industrial partners from the European potato sector, and its mission is to develop new strategies to make potatoes fit for the challenging growth conditions of the future. European potato growers are cordially invited to complete an online survey.

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Smallest crop since 1918: Maine potato growers rise to the challenge of weather and pandemic

This past year has thrown several challenges at Maine potato farmers, leading to decreased production amidst the chaos of a pandemic. The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service’s crop production forecast for November reported Maine potato production at 13.4 million cwt, down 20 percent from last year’s forecast. Bob Davis, president at Maine Farmers Exchange, based in Presque Isle, ME, attributed the decrease to a very dry summer. “It will make our crop the smallest Maine has had since 1918,” he said.

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Canada: Increasing frustration over irrigation water as PEI loses crown for potato production to Manitoba, Alberta

For the first time in recent history, Manitoba and Alberta have overtaken Prince Edward Island in potato production, according to a Statistics Canada report released Friday. “The difference in productivity, the yield, between P.E.I. and those provinces is water, and the lack of ability of farmers to access water here on P.E.I. And that’s reflecting in our production,” said Greg Donald, executive director of the P.E.I. Potato Board.

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COVID-19 and too much rain: A Florida farmer’s challenges mirror those that other farmers face

It’s been a year since First Coast News started following a local farmer, sharing with you his successes and struggles. When they started this story, First Coast News had no idea the troubles farmers would face because of a pandemic. This is the final installment in this story, showing how the weather is an age-old challenge for farmers and how Covid is something new. With a thousand acres of potatoes, spuds are the main source of income for the Jones family in Florida.

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What a mess: Some British potato growers muddle through harvest after fifth-wettest October since 1862

Potato harvesting has once again been affected by wet weather, with widespread rainfall in recent weeks hampering grower efforts to get the crop out of the ground. According to the Met Office, the UK experienced the fifth-wettest October since 1862 last month. It included the wettest day on record for average rainfall (31.7mm) on 3 October. Key processors McCain and Lamb Weston both spoke of challenging conditions in East Anglia, parts of which saw close to 200% of their usual average rainfall in October.

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Mud brings potato harvest ‘drudgery’ for Scottish farmers

The race is on to get this year’s Scottish potato crop harvested as growers battle their way through drenched fields and muddy conditions. The 2020 season in Scotland has been one of extremes, with one grower describing potato farming this October as “drudgery”. Fields were too dry at the start of the season with some growers irrigating crops because dry conditions meant potatoes getting bruised as they came through harvesters. Growers are now facing the opposite problem – significant rainfall since the start of the month has left harvesters sitting idle in sheds or struggling in sticky fields.

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Significant drop in Canadian potato production

Canadian potato production will decline this year, possibly by six percent or more. Last year, Canadian farmers produced 106.4 million hundredweight of potatoes. The 2020 crop could be around 100 million cwt. “The biggest decrease in yields will be in Eastern Canada…. Also, Western Canada yields are not what they (expected),” said Kevin MacIsaac, United Potato Growers of Canada general manager. Yields are down substantially in P.E.I. and New Brunswick because growers don’t have irrigation systems.

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Kenya: Potato-legume intercropping can decrease soil erosion, improve moisture retention, boost yields

The potato-growing belts in sub-Saharan Africa have experienced steady increases in heat stress, irregular rainfall, persistent droughts, high soil erosion rates and recurrent floods. Researchers Nyawade Shadrack, Elke Vandamme, Michael Friedmann and Monica Parker report on two potential roles of potato-legume intercropping: (i) improved control of soil erosion to make potato production more sustainable in the highlands; and (ii) optimizing soil temperatures, soil water contents and soil nutrient balance thus enabling potato production in the drier midland agro-food systems.

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Earth has warmest September on record, and 2020 may clinch hottest year

The planet just recorded its hottest September since at least 1880, according to three of the authoritative temperature-tracking agencies in the world, reports Andrew Freedman in an article for The Washington Post. The data, most of which was released Wednesday, shows that 2020 is on track to be one of the hottest years on record, with the possibility of tying[Read More…]

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All hail the rise of the ‘climate-smart’ potato

The potential of the potato has only just begun to be realized, writes Sandra Cordon in an article published by Landscape News. Sandra writes that some 368 million metric tons of potatoes were harvested globally in 2019, as people from Vietnam to Kenya, the Peruvian Andes to Rwanda produced a wide variety of the root vegetable, helping feed an estimated 1.3 billion people who rely on them as a staple food. In step, researchers around the world are hurrying to find ways to increase the quality and yield from potato production through targeted varieties better suited to local weather and soil conditions.

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US: Ongoing drought shrinks Aroostook County potato yields

This year’s potato harvest was met with an unrelenting drought that diminished crops and tied up water resources for Aroostook County, Maine farmers. “We’re in trouble,” said Kevin Grass as he steered a 15-ton potato harvester forward while jotting down notes on the crop and monitoring his crew — tasks he’s come to master simultaneously over the last 30 years. “Our yields are way off.” Potato yields at Grass Farms are down a third this year, and its seasoned farmers point to the drought as the driving force. “I’ve seen dry spells but nothing like this,” said Duane Grass, 77, a third-generation potato farmer.

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How historic drought affects potato harvest in Maine’s Aroostook County

Aroostook County is experiencing a drought of historic proportions, with the U.S. Department of Agriculture declaring The County to be a drought disaster area. Rivers have dried up considerably, and potato crops, as with other crops in the area, have suffered due to the lack of water, reports Alexander MacDougall for Bangor Daily News. The USDA has made Aroostook farmers, as well as those living in adjacent counties, eligible for emergency funding.

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Study: Future impact of climate change in Belgium and how it will effect the potato industry

The study “Evaluation of the socio-economic impact of climate change in Belgium” commissioned by the National Climate Commission has just been published. According to the authors of the report, global climate change in Belgium will mainly be felt through heat waves, floods and droughts. Warmer and drier summers, and milder and wetter winters are becoming the ‘new normal’. The increasing impact of drought on potato cultivation is a main concern for the potato fry industry, according to the authors of the report.

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Canadian crop update: Outlook mixed; total production expected to be down on last year

As the first day of fall arrives, the potato crop in the country is in varying stages of growth and/or harvest, writes Kevin MacIsaac in the latest Canadian crop update issued by the United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC). The general manager of UPGC says the production outlook is mixed after parts of Eastern Canada experienced one of their driest seasons on record, while growers in Western Canada work feverishly to harvest their crop from the ground after Mother Nature’s early onset of winter prevented them from doing so last year.

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Canada’s Prince Edward Island potato farmers still feeling summer drought into September

Many potato fields across Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) are not in the condition they are usually at this time of year due to the hot and dry conditions for much of July and August, reports John Robertson for CBC News. He reports that the Canadian Drought Monitor had much of central P.E.I. in extreme drought condition as of Aug. 31. While there has been more rain in September, in the first half of the month it is only about half of normal rainfall.

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Wageningen UR offers PhD project for potato sustainability research

Wageningen UR in the Netherlands is now offering a PhD research opportunity – in principle a 4-year PhD position – for the study of potato sustainability. This project is said to be about understanding the effects of extreme weather events on potato development and on the yield and quality of the tubers. These effects can be viewed in relation to soil quality management and its implications for crop climate resistance and nutrient-use efficiency.

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UFU: Northern Ireland’s potato sector at risk from rivers

The Ulster Farmers’ Union (UFU) says a combination of heavy rainfall and poor management of rivers by local river agencies, has led to unnecessary field flooding and potato crop destruction in areas of Northern Ireland. UFU deputy president William Irvine said: “A large amount of rain has fallen across the country in recent days and while we are unable to control the weather, the lack of river management has been the catalyst causing field flooding and widespread damage of crops in the process.

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EU ‘ADAPT’ Project: Searching for stress-resistant potatoes

The ADAPT project aims at identifying new breeding targets and matching potato varieties to specific challenging environmental growth conditions of the future, according to a press release issued by the University of Vienna. The ADAPT consortium has successfully launched the project “Accelerated Development of multiple-stress tolerAnt PoTato”, which aims at developing new strategies to make potatoes fit for the challenging growth conditions of the future. It will take place over the next four years with a total budget of 5 million Euro from the EU Horizon 2020 program.

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Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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