About Lukie Pieterse

Editor/Publisher of Potato News Today; Editor-in-Chief of Global Potato News print magazine; Newsfeed Curator: HZPC Americas; LinkedIn: www.linkedin.com/in/lukie; Twitter: @potatonewstoday

North-Western Europe: Official estimate of lower harvest; quality, processing concerns

Image result for europe potato harvestThe North-Western European Potato Growers Association (NEPG) estimates the upcoming harvest of the potato crop destined for fresh consumption to be 18% below last year’s total, and 8% under the 5 year average. This, in spite of the fact that the total area planted this season was 8,4% more than the average area planted during the last 5 seasons. In a press release, NEPG says the extreme drought and high temperatures all over North-Western Europe resulted in an estimated average yield of between 40 and 41 tons per hectare in the 5 leading potato countries (Germany, Belgium, UK, Netherlands and France). The main harvest is just now getting underway in Great Britain, and the NEPG says it is still difficult to come to a reliable estimate of the final harvest in the UK. The NEPG estimates the combined total harvest of potatoes for consumption in the north-western European countries to be between 23,5 and 24 million tons. Continue reading

East Idaho farmers report smoke may be factor in spud harvest

Students help with potato harvestEarly in potato harvest, area farmers are concerned heavy wildfire smoke throughout much of the growing season likely hindered crop development, especially in Eastern Idaho north of Blackfoot. Farmers statewide have been pleased by the “exceptional quality” of their spuds. Growers in the Shelley and Idaho Falls areas, however, worry their yields and tuber sizes may be down slightly, and they attribute the smaller crop profile to prolonged, thick smoke interfering with photosynthesis. “The smoke did have an impact,” said Frank Muir, president and CEO of the Idaho Potato Commission. “I think we had smoke for so long it did seem to confuse the plants a little bit.” The state’s growers planted 311,000 this season, up 1,000 acres from the prior season. However, McCain Frozen Foods anticipates it will need about 12,000 additional acres of production this season to accommodate an expansion of its Burley processing plant. Read more

Experts shed light on pink eye disease of potatoes

Image result for pink eye disease potatoPink eye is a disorder of potato tubers that can cause costly storage losses for potato growers and can reduce tuber quality to the point where tubers will be rejected by potato processors. Pink eye not only directly affects tubers, but also makes tubers more susceptible to diseases such as Pythium leak, bacterial soft rot, pink rot, and Fusarium dry rot. These diseases cause additional storage losses and reduction in quality. According to scientists Yi Wang, UW-Horticulture and Amanda Gevens, UW-Madison Plant Pathology in the US, pink eye is characterized by a short-lived external pink color that is often, but not always, found around the potato eyes of freshly harvested tubers. Eyes at the bud ends of tubers (i.e., those farthest from where tubers are attached to stems) more commonly show pink eye symptoms. The scientists say pink eye can eventually develop into corky patch/bull hide, which involves a thickening of areas of tuber skin extending approximately 1/10 of an inch into the tuber flesh. Read more

Deadline for ad space in Canada’s Potato Calendar 2019

Canada’s Potato Calendar is the leading choice for event and crop deadlines in the North American potato industry. This industry specific print publication will be closing advertising space reservations for the 2019 print edition on October 5. There is one spot/month to fill at this time. Take advantage to reach 3,000 decision makers via the print issue, as well as an unlimited number of views on the Calendar’s worldwide presence online. Contact: Gladwyn Nickel on 1.877.878.4077 or gladwyn@mts.net. Visit the Calendar website for further details: www.potatocalendar.com

Drought 2018 still posing questions for British potato growers

Drought 2018 still posing questions for potato growersA special session at the final Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Strategic Farm field walk of the season focused on storage and saw discussion on the challenges caused by this summer’s drought. The session took place on Tuesday, September 4, and was added to the planned trials programme at the Elveden Estate in west Suffolk to give growers and store managers a chance to share experiences and ideas. Simon Alexander of S.A. Consulting chaired discussions. He said: “By harvest-time, it’s a balancing act between catching up on yield and achieving the quality required to store the potatoes effectively. What you need to do to achieve one doesn’t necessarily help the other,” he explained. Adrian Cunnington, who edited the AHDB Potato Store Managers’ Guide, said that best practice becomes particularly important in difficult times. Read more

Idaho potato harvest kicks into gear, yielding variable results

SpudHarvest1The 2018 Idaho potato-growing season is just beginning to kick into high gear. The eastern Idaho summer has been hot and dry this year. While little more than a half-inch of rain fell across the eastern part of the state since the first of July, growers did not lack for water due to a plentiful snowpack this past winter that supplied the major storage reservoirs of the Upper Snake River Basin with sufficient irrigation water. Initial reports from growers across eastern Idaho indicate a quality crop that may be a little small in profile and an average or slightly lower yield. Travis Blacker, industry relations director for the Idaho Potato Commission, said that early harvest reports on Russet Norkotahs, one of the first varieties to be harvested annually, indicate a good crop with promising size profile and excellent quality. Preliminary reports on Russet Burbanks, however, are not as promising. Read more

Seed Industry Event in the UK to focus on post-Brexit seed trade

Image result for seed industry potato event ukAfter the success of the 2016 event, the Seed Industry Event will return to Fairmont, St Andrews on 15 November this year. The event will have a major theme focusing on how what the future may hold for the seed trade in a post-Brexit world and how to make the most of the global export market opportunities Brexit will present. Furthermore, a host of international experts will also discuss other key topics such as plant health, exports, and marketing. Great Britain’s seed’s high health status is one of its main selling points, which is why that status is another major theme of this year’s event. The conference will also feature a number of workshops where the latest research on key topics such as blackleg and aphid and virus will be revealed, and there will also be sessions on the Safe Haven Scheme and the benefits of benchmarking. Visit the AHDB Potatoes website for full information and registration details

Potato virus found for first time in New Zealand

Image result for potato mop-top virusA damaging potato crop virus could have a serious impact on the potato industry if not contained, an expert says. The potato mop-top virus (PMTV) has been discovered in New Zealand for the first time on two farms in Canterbury on the South Island. The virus causes a defect in the potato that means it can’t be processed for potato chips and oven fries, but does not pose a health risk. Affected potatoes can display symptoms including distortions to the skin, deep cracking, and rust-coloured arcs, streaks or flecks in the tuber flesh. Potatoes New Zealand chief executive Chris Claridge said they were investigating to see where the virus had come from and if it had spread to any other potato crops in the country. “It is so important for us to isolate and contain the virus and, if possible, eradicate it,” he said. Read more

Late blight expert: ‘How do you disarm Phytophthora?’

Plant breeders regularly claim to have developed a new potato variety that is resistant to the harmful micro-organism Phytophthora infestans (see inset). By cross-breeding they have introduced a resistance gene that they think will keep the little fungus-like pathogen out. But Francine Govers, professor in Phytopathology and a leading expert on Phytophthora, never makes these kinds of claims. She knows that the stubborn pathogen cannot be stopped with a single resistance gene and will get around this new defence barrier sooner or later. So, Wageningen University and Research (WUR) in the Netherlands is looking for heavier weaponry with which to protect potatoes from Phytophthora infection. Firstly, Govers and colleagues at the Laboratory for Plant Breeding are looking into how they can bolster the potato’s defences using new techniques. Secondly, they are looking at how they can deactivate Phytophthora’s weapons, the so-called effectors. Read more

Ireland’s Meade family ‘gleaning’ up to keep sustainability at the core

Meade Potato Company in Ireland won on the double at the recent Food and Drink Business Awards, taking home the ‘Fresh Produce Company of the Year’ and ‘Sustainable Factory of the Year’ awards. The family firm’s Robert Devlin and Eleanor Meade rushed to the awards ceremony on Wednesday evening, September 5, after a busy afternoon spent ‘gleaning’, a joint initiative with FoodCloud community foodbank and Lidl Ireland corporate social responsibility (CSR) volunteers. ‘Gleaning’ is the collecting of produce that has been left behind in the field after the harvesting has been done, according to Jeni Meade, marketing communications manager at Meade Potato Company. It is a word that crops up in the bible in the context of asking that the ‘gleanings’ of a field be given to the needy.  “‘Gleaning’ is currently very popular in the US and UK but has yet to become that widespread in Ireland,” she says. Read more

Idaho’s 2017/18 fresh potato prices raise national average

packerSales of table stock potatoes in the 2017-18 season totaled 107 million cwt., a 6% drop from the previous year, but the national average price-per-cwt. rose $1.13, to $11.73, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA released its annual summary of the previous season on Sept. 13. Overall production for the season, including frozen and dehydrated products, on 1.02 million acres was 442 million cwt., compared to 1.09 million acres and 441 million cwt. in the 2016-17 season. While the fall harvest of all potatoes, including those for processors, yielded 401 million cwt., a 1% drop from the previous fall, spring potato production was 19.8 million cwt., 30% more than the previous year, and summer production was 21.7 million cwt., an 11% increase from year to year. The Packer report

British chips to become much shorter

Image result for british fish and chipsBritons will be served up shorter chips this year as potato farmers across Europe struggle to cope with the worst summer drought for decades. Britain eats 1.75 million tonnes of frozen chips every year and is, alongside the US, the world’s largest importer of the product. Almost all frozen fry imports to Britain, about 750,000 tonnes, come from the Netherlands and Belgium. The hot weather and lack of rain has hit European crop yields, resulting in a drop of about 20% in Northern Europe, and made the potatoes, usually the size of a small brick, smaller. That will mean smaller, shorter chips, potato experts in Britain and Belgium have warned. “This was the hottest British summer since 1976, which any potato person will tell you was an almost mythical year,” said Cedric Porter, editor of World Potato Markets, “it is still talked about in potato circles. The chips are down,” he said, “You can expect smaller chips in Britain and in Europe.” Read more

Late blight update issued for the UK

Image result for fight against blight ahdbAccording to Dr James Cooke at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, having experienced one of the driest seasons since the Fight Against Blight began – clearly the weather has had a major impact. “After some early appearances on discard piles in Kent in mid-April, we have received very few recorded outbreaks compared to previous years. This has allowed us the time to genotype the samples as they arrived in the lab, and we now have genotype data for 24 positive outbreaks.” The data indicates a similar pattern to last year with the new lineages 37_A2 and 36_A2 in Kent and, more recently, in Shropshire. There have been no findings of these genotypes beyond their 2017 range but the hot, dry weather will have been a major factor in limiting pathogen movement. There are only two confirmed outbreaks from Lincolnshire, to date, so there remains a possibility that it is present but not yet sampled. Read full update on the AHDB Potatoes website

Managing moisture was key for Red River Valley potato growers

Black Gold Farms will be harvesting in the fields of the Red River Valley and said it is anxious to begin shipping red and yellow potatoes to their customers. Harvest will run for about four weeks with much of the crop stored, packed and shipped out of Black Gold Farm’s packing facility in East Grand Forks, MN through the spring of 2019. Keith Groven, Black Gold Farms Fresh Sales Manager has seen a lot of variables the last few years specifically due to moisture. “We made a decision a few years ago to really look at what we can control – and based on our history in the Valley, we know moisture control is critical to success. Selecting irrigated ground has been well worth it, and this year was absolutely a prime example with the dry growing season that we had,” Groven explains. “The early quality samples that we’re seeing look fantastic, and we’re ready to get them on the road.” Read more

Heat, smoke not expected to diminish Oregon potato harvest

Image result for Heat, smoke not expected to diminish Oregon potato harvestMonths of intense heat and smoky skies are not expected to diminish Oregon’s potato crop, with farmers across the state predicting average to above-average yields heading into the bulk of harvest. Bill Brewer, CEO of the Oregon Potato Commission, said the overall impact of wildfire smoke is yet to be determined in spuds, but he has not heard of any major setbacks or problems with quality. Hot weather can be hard on certain potato varieties, such as Russet Burbank; the gold standard for french fries; though in general, Brewer said he anticipates a roughly average harvest statewide and good quality potatoes. Potatoes ranked as the seventh-most valuable agricultural commodity in the state in 2017, raking in $176.9 million. Dan Chin, who runs Chin Family Farms Organic outside Merrill in the Klamath Basin, said they were socked in by smoke from wildfires raging in southern Oregon and northern California for a solid month and a half. Read more