Latest news stories from around the World

Weed-killing AI drones may be the future of farming

Precision AI, a leading agricultural startup, has introduced an AI-powered crop-spraying drone to combat the growing weed issue intensified by climate change. This innovative drone reduces chemical usage by up to 90%, offering a sustainable solution to weed management. This development signifies a major advancement in eco-friendly farming, blending technology and sustainability to address environmental concerns in agriculture.

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GB Potatoes appoints new CEO

GB Potatoes has named Scott Walker as its part-time CEO, effective from 2nd October. Formerly the Chief Executive of NFU Scotland for 25 years, Scott brings extensive experience to the role. He will also continue his part-time work with the Scottish Association of Meat Wholesalers, focusing on government and supply chain engagement. Scott emphasized collaboration as vital for GB Potatoes’ mission to ensure a sustainable future for potato production. Mark Taylor, GBP Chair, expressed optimism for 2024 with Scott’s appointment.

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Canada: Prince Edward Island potato farmers concerned about wet conditions as harvest begins

CBC News reports on the concerns of potato farmers in Prince Edward Island (P.E.I.) as they begin their harvest amidst wet conditions. Due to the excessive rainfall during the summer, farmers are apprehensive about the impact on this year’s crop. Greg Donald, the general manager of the P.E.I. Potato Board, mentions that while the crop looks promising, it might not be as bountiful as the previous year. The wet conditions could lead to issues like tuber rot, especially in areas with poor drainage.

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The battle against potato black dot: A comprehensive review of two decades of research and management strategies

Cranfield and Aberystwyth Universities conducted a 20-year study on potato black dot disease management. Their research, spanning pre- and post-harvest strategies, aimed to identify knowledge gaps and improve disease control. The potato, a staple in global agriculture, faces threats from black dot, a fungus causing economic losses. The study emphasizes the importance of technological solutions, like machine learning, for early disease detection and effective intervention.

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The ‘potato chronicles’: National Potato Council unpacking the latest in US potato industry trends

The National Potato Council’s ‘Spud Nation Report’, published earlier this year, provides a detailed overview of the US potato industry. It highlights a rising demand for potatoes, with sales reaching $4.8 billion in 2022. The report discusses production trends, export-import dynamics, changing consumer preferences towards organic and non-GMO potatoes, sustainability efforts, technological advancements in food safety, marketing strategies, policy implications, labor challenges, and research initiatives.

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Potato varieties ready for a changing climate: Insights from Elora Research Open House in Canada

Climate change resilience and early potato dying were the main topics at the Elora Potato Research Open House held on August 23 in Canada’s Ontario province. Vanessa Currie from the University of Guelph highlighted a five-year research study, initiated this year, focusing on potato varieties that can withstand increasing climate pressures. The annual event allows growers and buyers to preview potato varieties under testing and those that might be available in the future.

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America’s ‘veggie king’: The unwavering popularity of potatoes

At the 2023 Potato Business Summit earlier this year, Kim Breshears of Potatoes USA highlighted the enduring popularity of potatoes in America. Studies show potatoes as the top vegetable for five consecutive years. While 40% of the U.S. potato crop goes to retail and food service each, 20% is exported. Despite a brief pandemic-induced dip, food service sales are rebounding, indicating a robust future for the potato industry. The data presented by Kim Breshears underscores the unwavering popularity of potatoes in the U.S. market.

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SwarmFarm Robotics launches ‘dock and refill’: Ushering in the next era of agricultural autonomy

SwarmFarm Robotics, an Australian based pioneer in Integrated Autonomy, has introduced its innovative “dock and refill” feature, allowing robots to autonomously refuel and restock. This development decouples equipment size from efficiency. Historically, larger farm tools have overshadowed smaller ones in productivity. However, larger equipment has caused soil compaction, reducing yields. SwarmFarm’s new capability ensures continuous operation without manual intervention, promoting sustainable farming and tailored solutions.

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Dutch potato farmers sound alarm over harvest deadline

Dutch potato farmers are facing challenges in September as their crops are undersized for the October 1 harvest deadline. EU regulations mandate that potatoes grown on sandy soil be harvested by month’s end. Failure to meet this deadline will result in reduced manure usage for fertilization the following year. Starting in 2023, the harvest deadline aims to prevent harmful nitrates and nitrogen compounds from contaminating groundwater, aligning with a European directive.

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Potato exports from Ukraine in 2023 at record high, but prices and quality low

In the first half of 2023, Ukrainian farmers exported a record 19.8 thousand tons of fresh potatoes, despite tensions with Russia. This surpasses their previous high in 2013 by over 5,000 tons. However, this achievement highlights concerns for the industry’s future. Exports in 2023 were significantly higher than previous years, but the wholesale price was a mere $0.16/kg, insufficient to cover production costs. Additionally, 91% of these exports went to Moldova due to the potatoes’ low quality, as per EastFruit analysts.

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Royal HZPC Group B.V. seriously affected by cybercrime

On Thursday, September 14 2023,  potato breeder Royal HZPC Group B.V. became a target of a form of cybercrime, the company says in a news release issued today. A large amount of money was transferred to a bank account of criminals. “We are working together with the banks and the police to limit the damage. The outcome of this is still far from certain. An external forensic investigation has started,” the company press release reads.

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Canada: Potato processor warns against pink rot as harvest gets underway

One bad potato can spoil the batch, which is why processor J.R. Simplot is reminding producers to beware of pink rot as they begin harvest, as Geralyn Wichers reports for Manitoba Co-operator. “If you know there’s rot in there, tell your harvest operator, ‘when you come to that low spot, pick up the harvester, drive over, and don’t harvest those certain areas,’” said Scott Graham, Simplot’s raw agronomy manager. The fungal disease has been an issue for a number of Manitoba producers in recent years, the company said.

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Eye on Potatoes podcast: Defending potatoes in the 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans process

The “Eye on Potatoes” podcast discussed the upcoming 2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA). The U.S. potato industry aims to ensure accurate potato nutrition information is considered in the guidelines. NPC CEO Kam Quarles provided testimony to the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. The podcast also featured Beth Johnson, a food policy expert with over 25 years of experience, who has been working with NPC to promote the benefits of potatoes.

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EUROPLANT establishes subsidiary in Spain

EUROPLANT Pflanzenzucht GmbH recently announced that it has established a subsidiary in Spain to expand its market presence in the Mediterranean region. From now on EUROPLANT ESPAÑA Semillas S.L. will be responsible for the distribution of the modern and high-performance potato varieties in Spain. “In order to strengthen our presence and customer support, we have decided to establish EUROPLANT ESPAÑA. Our team will operate from Sevilla, covering all cultivation regions and providing competent support to our customers,” according to Joerg Renatus, CEO of EUROPLANT Pflanzenzucht GmbH.

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Strengthening Aussie potato market: Lamb Weston Australia acquires Crackerjack Foods

Lamb Weston, a global supplier of frozen potato products, has acquired Victorian-based Crackerjack Foods, known for its frozen potato-based items in the Australian food services sector. The acquisition includes two Crackerjack processing facilities and will see Crackerjack’s employees join Lamb Weston. The move aims to expand Lamb Weston’s product range, enhance processing capabilities, and strengthen its presence in Australia.

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European potato market: IFA provides a glimpse into current trends and future predictions

Unseasonal heatwaves in Ireland and the UK have temporarily dampened the potato market. While Ireland sees a recovery with a rising demand for Kerr Pinks, known for their excellent eating quality, yields remain inconsistent. Early crops in Ireland fare better than the later ones. The UK market faces pricing pressures due to the weather. In Europe, seed availability might influence next season’s planting. Despite current price pressures, demand from Poland, Spain, and Italy is anticipated to grow as the season advances.

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Avoiding storage pitfalls: The importance of dry, cool, and disease-free potato storage facilities

Adrian Cunnington from Potato Storage Insight (PSI) offers guidance to growers on optimal potato storage. Emphasizing the significance of proper skin set and ventilation, he warns against the risks of blight and blackleg diseases reported pre-harvest. Quick storage with effective drying is crucial, especially amidst disease threats. Managing crop temperatures during loading and avoiding crop moisture are vital to maintain tuber quality and ensure successful storage.

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Seeds of collaboration: The triumphs of Living Lab – Atlantic in sustainable agriculture across Canada’s Prince Edward Island

Initiated in 2018, Living Lab – Atlantic was a collaborative project in Prince Edward Island (PEI) involving farmers, scientists, and industry partners to co-develop farming practices for soil health and water quality. Completed in April 2023, the project saw over 13 activities studying beneficial management practices. The results highlighted the importance of collaboration in combating climate change and enhancing farming methods.

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U.S. seeks expanded potato trade with Japan: Key discussions ahead

During the U.S.-Japan bilateral talks from September 25-29, the U.S. potato sector, spearheaded by National Potato Council’s CEO Kam Quarles, will push for broader access to Japan’s fresh potato market. Although the U.S. has exported chipping potatoes to Japan since 2006, there’s a drive to expand into the overall fresh potato segment, which could yield an additional $150-$200 million in yearly exports. This initiative has bipartisan backing from Congress.

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Leadership shift at Restrain: Dr. Benedikt Cramer takes helm as new MD

Restrain, a leading provider of ethylene-based sprout control solutions, has appointed Dr. Benedikt Cramer as its new Managing Director. Former MD, Dirk Garos, will become Strategic Director. Dr. Cramer, previously Managing Director at Nufarm Germany, aims to drive Restrain’s growth and strategic vision. He emphasizes the potential of Restrain’s technology to revolutionize crop storage and support a sustainable food chain. Dirk Garos praised Cramer’s agrochemical background and leadership skills, believing he will further Restrain’s global expansion.

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Solynta’s executive shift: Peter Poortinga steps up as CEO, ushering in a new era of potato breeding

Dutch hybrid potato breeder, Solynta, has appointed Peter Poortinga as its new CEO, succeeding co-founder Hein Kruyt, who will now serve as CFO. Poortinga, former CEO of Plukon Food Group, has a background in potato science from Wageningen University. He believes in Solynta’s innovative approach to potato breeding, emphasizing its potential for sustainability and global food security. With this change, Juergen Steinemann, with vast experience in the agriculture and food industry, will become Chairman of Solynta’s Supervisory Board.

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Feeding America: How the next generation of potato farmers are leaving their mark

During National Fruits and Veggies Month, Potatoes USA celebrates innovative potato growers across the U.S. Leah Halverson of North Dakota uses her marketing skills to connect consumers with the origins of their food. Bryan Jones from Florida focuses on sustainable farming, protecting local waterways, and producing potatoes that transform into chips within 24 hours. Idaho’s Taylor Grant emphasizes sustainability at Grant 4-D Farms, using advanced techniques like solar power and soil moisture sensors. These farmers work tirelessly, often behind the scenes, to bring America’s favorite vegetable to tables both domestically and globally.

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‘The story behind soft rot’: A perspective from South Africa

Potatoes in South Africa have been affected by soft rot and blackleg due to higher than usual rainfall. These bacterial diseases, first identified in 1988, thrive in anaerobic conditions, especially in wet environments. The bacteria can survive in tubers, plant debris, and various plants but not for long in soil. Infected tubers initially show no symptoms, but under conditions like waterlogging, the bacteria multiply, leading to soft rot. Transmission can occur through infested tubers, water, or mechanical means.

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Mixed emotions: Scottish seed potato exports to Northern Ireland to resume, but concerns over EU exports remain

Scottish seed potato exports to Northern Ireland will recommence on 30 September, a move welcomed by Gordon MP Richard Thomson. However, Thomson expressed concern over the UK Government’s lack of discussions about lifting the EU export ban since March. The SNP MP criticized the government’s handling of Brexit and its impact on Scottish producers, emphasizing the global reputation of Scottish seed potatoes and the need for restored export markets.

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