Latest news stories from around the World

Europatat Congress 2024 unites industry leaders to shape the future of potato trade

The Europatat Congress 2024 took place in Brussels on 23 and 24 May, gathering over 100 participants from various countries. The event featured internal meetings for Europatat members, discussions with legislators, and a public conference on the future of potato trade. Key topics included plant health, food safety, and sustainability. Notable presentations were given by external speakers and project researchers.

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Pioneering the future of potato storage: North America Potato Storage Summit gears up for first virtual meeting

The North America Potato Storage Summit (NAPSS) will hold its inaugural virtual meeting on June 17, 2024, focusing on revolutionizing potato storage practices. The agenda includes introductions, anti-trust guidelines, team ground rules, and the formation of sub-committees. Future plans involve an in-person meeting during the 2024 Potato Association of America event. NAPSS aims to enhance potato storage solutions, profitability, and sustainability in North America through collaboration and innovation.

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FPS Food Process Solutions’ global headcount now over 1,000 strong

FPS Food Process Solutions, a global leader in turn-key food processing solutions, has expanded to over 1,000 employees in 20 locations across six continents since its inception in 2010 with eight staff. The company’s growth encompasses strategic acquisitions and partnerships, enhancing its manufacturing, R&D, engineering, service, and sales. FPS continues to innovate and expand, aiming for continued growth in the food processing sector.

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EU potato sector confronts late blight threat: Copa-Cogeca unveils comprehensive action plan

Europe’s leading farming organizations, Copa and Cogeca, are raising concerns about the re-emergence of potato late blight, a serious threat to European potato production. They have proposed an action plan, supported by several other EU farming organizations, to address this issue, emphasizing the need for effective plant protection products, resistant varieties, and improved agricultural practices. The plan includes developing coordinated measures with various stakeholders and increasing awareness among EU institutions to ensure effective control strategies.

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James Hutton Institute opens pioneering crop storage research facility in Scotland

A new Crop Storage and Post-harvest Solutions (CSPS) facility has opened at the James Hutton Institute in Invergowrie, Scotland, funded by the Scottish and UK Governments. The facility focuses on studying the effects of temperature, gas composition, and humidity on stored crops. Led by Professor Derek Stewart, the research aims to prolong shelf life and address the challenges posed by climate change and regenerative agriculture.

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Michigan State University’s new potato variety: Genetically engineered for longer storage, less browning and less fertilizer use

Michigan State University developed a genetically engineered potato, the Kal91.3, exempt from USDA APHIS biotechnology regulations. Created by Dave Douches using RNA interference, it stabilizes sugars in cold storage, reducing off-color browning and caramelization. The Kal91.3 can be stored at 40°F and requires fewer fertilizers and pesticides, offering environmental benefits. It potentially stabilizes Michigan’s potato industry by providing a steady supply for chips and addresses climate resilience.

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EU farmers’ protest erupts: Hundreds of tractors converge on Brussels in anti-Green Deal protest

Farmers from the Netherlands, Belgium, Poland, and Germany drove hundreds of tractors into Brussels to protest the EU’s environmental policies. Mainstream farming groups did not endorse the protest, which was organized by the Dutch Farmers Defence Force and supported by right-wing groups. The farmers argue the policies undermine their competitiveness and call for a change to the Green Deal.

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Robust surge in U.S. potato sales: Across-the-board growth for all potato categories

In the first quarter of 2024, the U.S. retail potato market saw a 5.6% rise in sales volumes and a 4.4% increase in dollar sales, reaching $4.6 billion. Growth spanned all potato categories, led by fresh potatoes with a 7.6% volume increase. Smaller pack sizes gained popularity, while larger ones declined. Insights from Circana reveal strong consumer demand, guiding industry strategies for future growth.

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Scottish potato planting season hampered by weather challenges and seed shortages

In Scotland, inconsistent weather has made this year’s potato planting season challenging, with sporadic efforts due to frequent rain and soaked soil. Around 75% of potatoes are planted in Moray and Aberdeenshire, 90% in Angus and Perthshire, and the Borders region is nearly complete. Limited seed supplies and disease concerns complicate the season further, while low sunlight and disease risks affect growth and yields.

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Reviving tradition: Organic potato farming takes root in Peru’s Colca River Valley

Peru, the origin of the potato, relies heavily on this crop, especially in the Andes where it’s cultivated by small-scale farmers. The Colca River Valley, a popular tourist spot, depends significantly on potato farming. However, there’s a lack of knowledge regarding organic cultivation. The Arequipa Nexus Institute Phase III project aims to assist farmers by addressing barriers to organic practices, optimizing soil management, and improving compost production.

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International Day of Potato: At inaugural celebration, FAO highlights crop’s significance and further potential

The potato, eaten by over a billion people, is the third most available food crop globally. It was celebrated with its first International Day, recognizing its significance. FAO highlighted the potato’s role in food security, calling for investment in its potential. Emphasis was placed on genetic diversity, climate resilience, and economic opportunities for farmers, with initiatives supporting value chains and sustainable practices.

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Agricar to distribute advanced HarvestEye crop insight tool in Scotland

HarvestEye, a machine-learning crop insights tool, has partnered with Agricar in Scotland to distribute HarvestEye 2.0 and HarvestEye Handheld systems. This technology provides visibility on crop size and shape through an online portal. Agricar will showcase HarvestEye at various events, while HarvestEye’s developers seek to expand its compatibility and market reach. Farmers can secure subscription options through the HarvestEye website.

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Potato storage breakthroughs: Innovative solutions from the North America Potato Storage Summit

A dedicated group of potato industry leaders is organizing the first North America Potato Storage Summit, focused on optimizing storage practices to reduce waste and enhance profitability. The Summit aims to bridge traditional and modern storage methods, share best practices, and promote sustainability. Interested individuals can join the Central Committee to shape the event’s agenda, with meetings scheduled for June 17 and July 23, 2024. For more information, visit www.napotatostoragesummit.org, and get in touch with Emily Merk on info@napotatostoragesummit.org.

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Potato crop walks get underway in Ireland as blight cases emerge

Teagasc will host three potato crop walks this week to address emerging blight cases and the new EU43 blight strain in Ireland, beginning May 29 in Co. Meath. These events will provide growers with updated guidelines on blight control and strategies for the upcoming year. Shay Phelan emphasized the seriousness of the EU43 strain, which has posed significant challenges in Europe, necessitating robust new disease control programs.

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Shifting landscapes: The next generation of high-performance potato variety releases for American growers

Rhett Spear, Assistant Professor / University of Idaho Aberdeen Research and Extension Center, reflects on his childhood living on a remote farm, noting challenges like grocery shopping and equipment maintenance. He observes a shift from farmland to housing, stressing the need for efficient farming. The Northwest Potato Variety Development Program releases new, improved potato varieties annually, enhancing traits like disease resistance and yields. Spear highlights several varieties such as Rainier Russet, Galena Russet, Becca Rose, and Echo Russet.

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Boost in efficiency: Canada’s EarthFresh Inc. accelerates production with cutting-edge packing line

EarthFresh Inc., a Canadian potato company in Burlington, installed a new advanced packing line to address growing demand and operational challenges, including supply chain issues and equipment aging. The new system, funded by the Ontario Supply Chain Stability and Adaptability Program, improved packing rates, reduced unplanned downtime, and enabled sustainable packaging options. This upgrade also lowered transportation costs and enhanced the local market.

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UK potato supplier Branston donates £10k to support potato production among local farmers in Uganda

Branston Ltd, a UK potato supplier, donated £10k to support potato production in Alito, Uganda, enhancing food security and local farmers’ incomes. Alito’s agricultural college educates farmers, supplying students with potato seeds upon graduation. Alongside funding, Branston will construct water lagoons for irrigation and a test site for potato variety and fertilizer trials. Over 100 students and staff participated in the project.

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EWRN Workshop: Global experts unite to tackle wireworm challenges in potato production

The European Wireworm Research Network (EWRN) will host a workshop on July 7th at the Scandic Fornebu Hotel in Oslo, Norway, focusing on wireworm infestations in potato crops. Keynotes include experts discussing management, challenges, and risk assessment. Country updates and scientific posters will be presented, and participants will engage in collaborative discussions. This event aims to unite researchers and professionals in addressing wireworm issues.

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Carlos Ochoa: Rightfully named the ‘Indiana Jones’ of the potato world

The latest installment of Krishak Jakat’s ‘Seed Heroes’ series honors Peruvian scientist Carlos Ochoa for his significant contributions to understanding and improving potato varieties. Known as the “Indiana Jones of the potato world,” Ochoa’s adventurous expeditions led to the discovery of numerous wild potato species. His work has greatly enhanced crop resilience and food security in Peru and beyond. Ochoa’s legacy is celebrated on International Potato Day, 30 May 2024.

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From field to flavor: Growing the future of Lay’s, one potato seed at a time

Josh Parsons, an R&D scientist at PepsiCo’s Rhinelander, Wisconsin, farm leads a team combining traditional breeding with modern tools to cultivate high-quality potatoes for Lay’s chips. They grow new potato varieties through data-driven cross-pollination. These varieties are selected for yield, disease resistance, nutrition, and taste, aligning with PepsiCo’s sustainability and nutrition goals. Despite the lengthy nine-year development process, only a few seeds become successful.

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Rock-solid results: How Newfoundland farmers are overcoming stony soils with cutting-edge technology

Newfoundland’s rocky soil makes growing root crops challenging. In 2021, farmer Chris Lester and AAFC tested a stone burier and bed shaper tiller. The equipment separates stones from soil, enhancing soil bed quality. Chris Lester and other farmers were impressed with the results, leading to wider adoption. The stone burier promises better crop growth and reduced soil compaction. Data recorded with the stone burier and bed shaper also showed that water availability was more uniform throughout soils beds.

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Britain’s mashed potato mania: Tesco and Branston team up to meet surging demand

Mashed potato sales have surged at Tesco with a million more packs sold in 2023 than in 2022, leading to the opening of a new multi-million-pound mash factory. Demand rose post-pandemic and during the cost-of-living crisis. Tesco partnered with Branston for gourmet mash recipes, creating 80 jobs at the new facility. Branston aims to modernize the beloved British comfort food.

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Weather challenges persist: European and Irish potato farmers struggle with planting delays as demand stays high

The latest Irish Farmers Association report underscores the difficulties Irish potato farmers face due to unpredictable weather, causing planting delays and a potentially late harvest. Despite these challenges, retail demand and home consumption remain strong, pressuring old season stocks and driving up physical prices. This trend is seen across Europe, with weather impacts noted in the Netherlands and the UK.

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McCain Foods CEO Koeune reveal major investment plans for French processing facilities during presidential visit

McCain Foods announced a €350 million investment in its French production facilities, enhancing capabilities at Harnes, Béthune, and Matougues. This initiative, revealed during President Macron’s visit, aims to boost production by 25% while prioritizing sustainability. State-of-the-art facility upgrades will reduce CO2 emissions and optimize water use. The investment supports McCain’s vision for a resilient future in French agriculture, benefiting its network of farmers, employees, and customers.

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Editor & Publisher: Lukie Pieterse


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