Researchers trace the potato’s origins, learn about its untapped potential

IMAGEThe comfort food we know and love today as the potato was domesticated between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago from a wild species native to the Andes Mountains in southern Peru. During the 16th century, Spanish conquistadors are believed to have transported the rugged root-like vegetable across the Atlantic. Now, a team of researchers has charted this lineage in order to learn how the potato was domesticated and how its DNA evolved over time. Richard Veilleux, head of the Department of Horticulture in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and his graduate student, Parker Laimbeer, partnered with colleagues at Michigan State University to conduct a plant genome project. “The results increase our understanding of how the potato was domesticated and what genes are important. We also identified potential genes to improve on in the future and showed how high throughput genome sequencing provides new tools,” Veilleux said. More

Sweden: Scientists are making smoothies with potato milk

Plant-based products are growing in popularity. You can enjoy steaks or cheese made of soya beans. But milk alternatives on the shelves might be made of soya, almonds, coconuts, rice, cashews or oats. If that isn’t enough, make way for potato milk. Vegans do not eat anything animal; no meat or fish, no milk, cheese, eggs or even honey. Everything has to come from plants. This can be difficult, as animal products or by-products dominate the market. This is one of the reasons why the Swedish food researcher Eva Tornberg wanted to create potato milk. The plan is to produce and sell the product as an alternative to milk, yoghurt, cream and ice cream. The milk has been tested in the laboratory and in a factory and the hope is it will be commercially available next year. The first product is likely to be a smoothie made of potato milk with apple juice and fruit. More

Denmark: KMC released potato starch-based cheese

Image result for KMC has released a potato starch-based cheeseKMC, a Danish based producer of starch and other potato based ingredients, announced that it has released a potato starch-based vegan-friendly cheese called Cheesemaker CF 30, which offers a very “cheese-like sensation,” despite the fact that there is no milk protein inside it. Darren Wood spoke to KMC’s Hugo Neilsen, CCO business development & Americas, and Neilsen told him about the functionality, texture and taste of the cheese, as well as his views on plant-based protein trends. Watch video

Australia: Tomato potato psyllid results in soon

Results from a spring surveillance program of the tomato potato psyllid insect pest will soon be available as part of the TPP management plan. The results have the potential to improve market access for West Australian growers if no damaging plant bacteria is detected, a Department of Primary Industries and Regional Development statement said. “Trapping is allowing us to test these insects to see if they carry the damaging plant bacteria Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum,” department senior research officer Ian Wilkinson said. The statement said if no bacteria was detected when testing was finalised later this month, it could be used in negotiations to improve market access for WA growers across other Australian states and territories. (Source: The West Australian)

History of french fries: All about the origins of the world’s favourite potato fritters

History of French Fries: All About The Origins of the World's Favourite Potato FrittersThin, crisp and oh-so indulgent, there is nothing quite as addictive as French fries. The deep fried potato fritters have caught the fancy of foodies for centuries, across continents and have established themselves as the best sidekick to so many dishes. On its own too, French fries could be quite a snack to munch on. Several historians claim that what we enjoy today as French fries, may not be a French creation but a Belgian one. According to them, it was in Belgium where potatoes were being fried in the late-1600’s. Belgian villagers uses to slice their fish really thin, fry them and eat them as a snack. But in winter months when the river would freeze, it would get difficult for the villagers to fish. What started out as an alternative paved the way for the creation of our beloved French fries. More

Genes in storage: Husband and wife team dig into what genes lead to longer potato storability

One would hardly consider Nevada to be potato country. Livestock is far and away the agricultural king in the Silver State, and all other commodities bow down before it. But in a lab at the University of Nevada, Reno, work is being done that researchers believe could eventually prevent the loss millions of tons of potatoes each year in the U.S. With the help of a $1.37 million grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF), husband-and-wife team Dylan Kosma and Patricia Santos hope to discover, on a genetic level, ways to mitigate—if not eliminate—tuber loss in storage. The current NSF-funded project at the Kosma-Santos lab is focused on understanding the genetic reasons some potato varieties store better, for longer periods of time, than others—a question that has plagued the chip industry for years. More

Canada: Shipping potatoes to Prince Edward Island cost processors ‘almost more than the potatoes itself’

This year Prince Edward Island processing plants on the east coast of Canada are bringing in potatoes from Alberta in the west of the country and will likely seek supplies from south of the border in the US as well. An eight percent decline in potato production on the Island and growing demand forced processing plants to buy potatoes from Alberta province. There are many obscure and strange feats in the Guinness World Records, but it’s unlikely that hauling potatoes, for distance, is mentioned anywhere in the book. If it was, a record is probably being set in Canada right now, because french fry plants on Prince Edward Island are shipping in potatoes from Alberta, and “the freight is almost worth more than the potatoes,” according to Kevin MacIsaac, general manager of United Potato Growers of Canada..The distance from Alberta to Prince Edward Island is 4,575 km. More

Promotion: Potatoes USA spotlights performance athletes on website

Image result for potatoes usa athletesA new feature has launched on the website, designed to spotlight athletes from around the US potato industry and share how they are fueling their performance with potatoes. The series launched with spotlight features on Christie Wood, Account Director at Sterling-Rice Group, a distance runner who just completed the NYC Marathon.  She enjoys “simply prepared potatoes (boiled, baked or mashed) as both a night-before performance food and as a recovery food with her favorite protein.” It further features Bill Skinner, Seed Potato Farmer from Belgrade, Montana, also a distance runner who recently qualified for the 2018 Boston Marathon and enjoys lightly salted boiled potatoes during his long runs. Potatoes USA welcomes suggestions from the industry for additional potato-loving athletes to feature on Do you know someone that could be featured? Have them fill out the athlete Q&A and reach out to Sarah Reece, Global Marketing Manager, at

Aviko to join direct-to-consumer movement

INS, the decentralized ecosystem for the grocery market, has announced that leading potato processing company, Aviko intends to be listed on the INS Ecosystem, joining the direct-to-consumer movement. Peter Fedchenkov, INS Founder explained that inequitable pricing, retailer influence and a lack of transparency are all major concerns for both manufacturers and consumers and the direct-to-consumer movement is on the agenda of FMCG companies everywhere. [Fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) or consumer packaged goods (CPG) are products that are sold quickly and at relatively low cost.] “A direct marketplace powered by emerging technology brings us ever closer to not only addressing these concerns but solving inherent problems within the grocery sector. We are elated with the interest we have received to date from manufacturers worldwide who also wish to evolve their current processes, strengthening the obvious need for the direct-to-consumer movement. We are both delighted and eager to collaborate with Aviko,” added Fedchenkov.

How the humble potato helped bring peace in war-split Europe

The humble potato — drought-resistant, able to thrive in diverse soils and enjoyed fried, steamed or baked — brought centuries of relative calm and prosperity to Europe after its introduction in the 16th century, a new study says. The crop, discovered in Latin America in the 1400s before eventually sweeping through Europe, greatly boosted productivity, helping lower land costs while improving nutrition and raising wages, from peasants up to the ruling classes, according to the study for the National Bureau of Economic Research. The blessings that flowed from this agricultural revolution helped ease the economic and societal pressures that can lead to costly and disastrous conflicts, says the report. The introduction of potatoes and the resultant increase in productivity “dramatically reduced conflict” both within and between states for some two centuries, it says. The researchers, who examined 2,477 battles fought in 899 wars over a 500-year period, drew two key conclusions. The first is linked to the declining value of land on which potatoes are grown. More

USDA reports North American potato production down slightly

The latest estimate for North American fall potato production is 505 million cwt., down 1% from last year, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Canadian growers harvested 106 million cwt., up slightly from 2016, and U.S. growers are expected to produce 399 million cwt., down 2% from 2016. U.S. growers planted 906,500 acres, down from 923,800 in 2016, and harvested 900,600 acres, down from 909,600 in 2016. Canadian growers planted 345,800 acres and harvested 342,200, both amounts similar to the previous crop. The USDA reported yields per acre at 443 cwt. for growers in the U.S. and at 309 cwt. for growers in Canada.

US: Russet potato supplies are tight, boosting prices

While potato production nationwide in 2017 fell less than 1 percent, things were very different in the Pacific Northwest. Combined production in Idaho, Washington and Oregon this year fell 6.3 percent on 21,000 fewer planted acres, according to the December crop production report by USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service. The decline is significant as the region produces 78 percent of all potatoes processed in the U.S. and 61 percent of fresh russets produced in the U.S. While there’s no hard data, Huffaker would guess russets make up about 85 percent of the PNW crop. Bruce Huffaker, a potato market analyst, says: “I think we’re coming up to a situation with russet potatoes where we’re going to run into crunch time on supply. PNW stocks on Dec. 1 are estimated to be down 9 percent year over year. Processing usage June through November was up slightly and fresh usage was down only 0.8 percent – meaning the crunch is ahead. We did not cut back on usage during the first six months; all that (shortfall) has to come in the next six months.” More

Vive Crop Protection and United Potato Growers of America announce partnership

Vive Crop ProtectionVive Crop Protection and United Potato Growers of America (UPGA) are pleased to announce that Vive Crop Protection is now a United Potato Partner. “We create new possibilities for potato growers that increase yield, quality, and productivity on their farms,” stated Darren Anderson, Vive’s President. “We’re committed to the growth and success of potato growers and are excited to be a United Potato Partner. If you’re a potato grower, we want to meet you and understand how we can help with your operation.” “UPGA is happy to welcome Vive Crop Protection as a Potato Partner,” states Mark Klompien, President and CEO of United Potato Growers of America.  “UPGA’s Potato Partner Program supports offerings of innovative and productivity-enhancing products to our potato grower members, and we look forward to working with Vive toward that end.” Vive creates new ways to use trusted products using the Allosperse® Delivery System. Allosperse is said to improve the targeting and performance of pesticide active ingredients.

McCain UK opens its own specialty ‘Roastaurant’ in London

McCain is opening the doors to its own speciality restaurant, the Roastaurant, to celebrate the diversity of one of the nation’s favourite meals. The Roastaurant will provide roast dinner lovers the choice of over 100,000 possible roast combinations as guests choose from a pick ‘n’ mix style menu. Featuring a unique ‘gravy microbrewery’ and a giant six metre squared roast potato platter filled with thousands of McCain Roasts, the Roastaurant is set to bring the ultimate roast dinner experience to London. To accommodate all roast dinner habits, whether it’s pigeon with onion rings covered in chocolate gravy, or beef brisket accompanied with a fried egg and a side of charred pineapple, the McCain Roastaurant will be dishing up a whole host of exploratory roast combinations, no matter how quirky they may be. The Roastaurant will be split into two sittings, the Full Roast and the Roasts and Gravy. It will open its doors on Friday 8 and Sunday 10 December. Tickets can be bought online. More

Aldi’s rocketing potato sales in Wales highlights popularity of homegrown produce

Aldi’s potato sales rocket in WalesAldi’s potato sales in Wales have risen by a third since the retailer began sales of Welsh potatoes five months ago, highlighting the popularity of homegrown produce in the country. The discounter began stocking Welsh-grown potatoes in July 2017, thanks in part to a £4.8 million government support package adopted in 2015, which allowed producers to expand their production. This has helped generate a 33 per cent increase in Aldi’s potato sales, and the supermarket has ordered an additional 11,000 tonnes of Welsh potatoes, worth around £5 million, for the 2017/18 season. Puffin Produce supplies the supermarket with Maris Piper, baking and red potatoes, which are grown in Pembrokeshire and the Wye Valley. Says Huw Thomas, managing director of Puffin Produce: “It is amazing that Aldi is able to see an immediate uplift of 33 per cent within their potato category in Wales by providing a Welsh offering. “It really does show the fierce loyalty of the Welsh consumer to the large Welsh flag on the bag.” More