According to Wilson’s Country agronomist Stuart Meredith, up to 30% of potato crops in the Republic of Ireland are now being irrigated in order to maintain yields. The equivalent figure for Northern Ireland is 10%. The continuing warm spell has created significant moisture deficit challenges for most Irish potato crops.
Growing conditions across the country seem to have reversed regionally from a year ago. This year the four main growing provinces in eastern and central Canada have received good moisture levels to date, while the four western provinces have been extremely hot and dry. Kevin MacIsaac, General Manager United Potato Growers of Canada (UPGC) provides an up to date summary of crop growth across the country.
Last year not a good year for potato farmers in Maine. Dry weather and the pandemic saw to that, but this year things seem to be turning around for them. This year growers are expecting a bigger yield, says University of Maine crop ecology professor Greg Porter. “There’s optimism that there’ll be a good supply here of good quality potatoes and that the market will be there to take those potatoes,” he says.
A good spraying programme could help keep disease pressures at bay, agronomists have warned. As Claire Taylor reports for The Scottish Farmer, dry conditions experienced this April, followed by a very wet May, has resulted in taxing conditions for potato and cereal growers UK.
Europatat is part of an international consortium involved in the research project ADAPT (“Accelerated Development of multiple-stress tolerAnt PoTato”), which aims to develop new strategies for making potatoes fit for the challenging production conditions of the future. ADAPT asked farmers about their perception of climate change, their experiences concerning its impact on potato production, and their need for adapted potato varieties. Almost 90% of the survey respondents indicated that climate change had affected their potato production in the last 10 years, and almost 50% defined climatic change as a threat to maintain potato production at their farms.
This week, Randy Russell, founder of The Russell Group, which manages the Food and Agriculture Climate Alliance, joins the NPC Eye on Potatoes podcast to talk about how the FACA coalition got started and why it was so important that potato growers have taken a seat at the table. In May, the podcast was joined by Mark Klompien, President and CEO of United Potato Growers of America, who informed listeners about the fresh market outlook.
Canada has recorded its highest ever temperature as the country’s west and the US Pacific north-west frazzle in an unprecedented heatwave. The US and Canada have both warned citizens of “dangerous” heat levels that could persist this week. A “heat dome” – static high pressure acting like a lid on a cooking pot – has set records in many other areas. This high pressure zone is huge, from California right up to Canada’s Arctic territories and stretching inland through Idaho.
As the Magic Valley prepares for potentially record setting heat this week, farmers, potato researchers and dairy scientists are all voicing concerns. Nora Olsen, University of Idaho professor and extension potato specialist, said heat on top of longer days can be a lot for any crop, including potatoes. In high temperatures, potatoes will shut down and stop growing. This can cause situations of start and stop growth patterns that are not ideal for growing potatoes. “We are like pulling our hair out right now trying to figure out how to irrigate the crop,” she says.
East of the Cascades, growers are scrambling to get ready for a heat wave that could bring a peak temperature Tuesday of 113 degrees in Yakima and hang around until at least Friday, when a high of 107 is forecast. The heat wave is forecast to absorb a broad swath of irrigated farm country in Eastern Washington. In Othello, a prime potato-growing region, high temperatures are forecast by the National Weather Service to reach 112 on Tuesday.
Growers without access to irrigation systems are being encouraged to follow the lead of one Lincolnshire farmer in the UK who has embraced seaweed to help his crop fend off the effects of heat stress. Since 2018, the Louth Potato Company has used a seaweed-based biostimulant to counter the impact of extreme weather conditions. Ryan Wrisdale has been applying Algifol regularly to his winter wheat, pumpkins, and potatoes. He says the results have been amazing.
Potato crops around the UK are entering the highest threat level for blight, writes Gordon Davidson in this news story for The Scottish Farmer. Hutton Criteria disease warnings were declared in key potato-growing areas, as the AHDB’s BlightSpy tool put growers across the East, South East and South West of England, the whole of Wales and South West Scotland on alert.
With resistance to fluazinam now established in the blight populations in the UK and a continuing shift towards more aggressive P. infestans populations such as 36_A2 and 37_A2, a robust resistance management strategy is essential to safeguard crops. SRUC specialist in blight epidemiology Dr. Ruairidh Bain, believes that spray coverage is one of the key factors of the blight control programme that needs to be improved to protect potato crops.
In an effort to increase agricultural productivity and limit waste, a team of researchers from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem (HU)’s Robert H. Smith Faculty of Agriculture, Food and Environment developed a method to detect signs of stress before potato plants are damaged. By employing genetic engineering, the team introduced a new gene coded to a fluorescent protein that reports the level of reactive ‘oxygen specieses’ – highly reactive molecules whose accumulation signifies stress responses.
Domestic consumption remains buoyant and retail demand remains strong, especially with the colder weather Ireland is experiencing for this time of the year, the Irish Farmers Association (IFA) reports. This cold snap is also affecting the growth of early and maincrops. Recent rainfall has helped in many parts of the country but it is verging on too much, sunshine and warmth is now needed to aid crop development. There are many reports indicating that it will be a ‘late year’.
Rising temperatures resulting from climate change is exposing more potato crops to the damaging extremes of heat stress more frequently. A study of trends has shown it is temperate climates, including the UK, that are bearing the brunt of some of the extremes in weather changes. However, analysing weather data on a more local level can indicate crops that are most at risk of heat stress, and how to adapt agronomy to cope, advocates Syngenta Head of Technical, Dave King.
The Rhizoctonia threat: British potato growers advised on control measures after cold and dry spring
During April 2021 the UK experienced cold and dry conditions which haven’t been seen in some years. Moving into May, much of the country has received – or is about to receive – some much needed rain, together with an increase in temperatures. Earlier-planted crops may now be ready to crack above the soil surface. Rhizoctonia solani will be a threat to watch out for especially early in the season.
It’s growing time for Maine potato farmers throughout the state, and many have started planting, hoping for a better season overall. According to the Maine Potato Board, last year drought conditions resulted in a potato crop yield that was down 20 percent state-wide. “We are hopeful we’ll get a little more water than we did last year,” said Mike Hart, director of sales and marketing at Green Thumb Farms in Fryeburg. Some Maine farmers are adapting by growing more drought resistant varieties like the Caribou Russet and Queen Anne.
The European Potato Trade Association (Europatat) is part of an international consortium involved in the research project ADAPT (“Accelerated Development of multiple-stress tolerAnt PoTato”). The project aims to develop new strategies to make potatoes fit for the challenging climatic growth conditions expected in future.
Agri-chemical company BASF has launched a new initiative to help UK growers unlock the potential – and the profits – of their potato crop. Titled, ‘Perfecting Potatoes Together’, the initiative provides a platform on which the potato industry can come together to share experience, know-how and passion for developing and perfecting healthy potato crops.
The most common potato variety grown in North America is the Russet Burbank, which is mainly grown in the Pacific Northwest. But as the climate there gets warmer and drier, growing these tubers may become more difficult. To help the industry adapt, Richard Novy, a potato breeder and plant geneticist at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Idaho, and other scientists have been developing new, more resilient potato varieties, including the Blazer Russet and Clearwater Russet.
Beleaguered Manitoba potato growers are hoping for a normal crop this year after three consecutive years of adverse weather, unharvested acres, lower-than-expected yields and now the COVID-19 pandemic. Guarded optimism would be the best way to describe growers’ mood as they prepare for the 2021 crop amid weather and market conditions largely beyond their control.
Mike Renouard, business unit director at The Jersey Royal Company, said that farmers were hoping for a period of rain to help with the growth of their crop. Cool and dry conditions over the last two weeks are slowing down the growing process, forcing farmers to irrigate their fields. This continued dry spell could impact the quantity of potatoes being lifted.
AAFC Cold Climate Eco-physiologist Dr. Julia Wheeler and her team is hoping to find that by using bioplastic and other season-extension technology, northern Canadian farmers can extend their growing season and improve the yield, shelf-life, and nutritional quality of their vegetables. They are Dr. Wheeler and her team are installing reusable, half-meter high plastic tunnels over vegetable rows.
NASA Harvest (NASA’s Food Security and Agriculture Program) and CropX, a global leader in soil analytics for agriculture, recently announced a strategic partnership that will give NASA Harvest unprecedented soil insights for its global agricultural monitoring efforts. The partnership will further NASA Harvest’s mission to improve food security and advance sustainable agriculture.
Storing potatoes long-term is often challenging and this is especially so if there is a reliance on ambient ventilation. Even in the most favourable seasons, it is seldom possible to hold crops at optimum temperature in ambient stores beyond early May. In this article, specialists at AHDB’s Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research (CSR) facility in the UK explore how refrigeration can help deliver on long-term storage.
Syngenta UK has launched its first biostimulant in potatoes, Quantis, that has shown to effectively help crops cope with the impact of heat stress. company said that it had carried out “the UK’s most extensive research field trial of a biostimulant”. Analysis of the data resource had revealed “significantly increased yield for crops that had been under prolonged or extreme heat stress”.
For generations, Brian Sackett’s family has farmed potatoes that are made into chips found on grocery shelves in much of the eastern U.S. About 25% of the nation’s potato chips get their start in Michigan, where reliably cool air during September harvest and late spring has been ideal for crop storage. But with temperatures edging higher, Sackett had to buy several small refrigeration units for his sprawling warehouses. Last year, he paid $125,000 for a bigger one.
Farmers are on the front lines of worsening climate impacts, and face increasing risk of wildfires and extreme weather events, such as floods and droughts. The best way to build climate resiliency across Canadian agriculture’s diversity of realities and landscapes is by developing and deploying solutions that are tailored for each region, led by farmers and farm groups themselves, the Government of Canada says in a press release.