Not so humble anymore: First ever campaign to promote the potato on a global scale gets underway

Image result for "imagine a world without potatoes"Staunch supporters of the humble potato have decided that its high time that consumers across the world have a pause and realize that this tuber, taken so much for granted, may very well hold the key to food security for generations to come. Initiating a first ever global promotions campaign of this nature, the the International Potato Center (CIP) – headquartered in Peru – recently announced the “Imagine a World without Potatoes” campaign, inviting millions of potato consumers around the world to imagine life without the potatoes that they are so used to having around in all its varieties and presentations. The campaign seeks to bring together diverse partners from the global potato sector, be it private companies, trade associations and public research institutes, among others. “It’s a call to action; we’re giving consumers the freedom to use their imagination and draw their own conclusions. Potatoes are an integral part of our lives, they evoke feelings of tradition, home cooked meals, warmth and comfort. The problem is not that potato fails to inspire, but that we take it for granted,” said Marc de Beaufort, Marketing Specialist at CIP. Visit the dedicated website where more information on the campaign can be found:

Potato virus Y: Reasons why potato growers should pay attention to this serious disease

Related imagePotato virus Y (PVY) is one of the most common problems in potato fields, but can be hard to detect and some people do not recognize it when they see it. With plenty of other things to worry about, some growers may not consider PVY a serious threat and have not learned to recognize the symptoms. But this attitude is changing as more potato crops are impacted by the virus. PVY has been around a long time but only recently has become a serious problem for potato growers in North America. There are some reasons for this, according to American Vegetable Grower magazine columnist, Carrie Wohleb. She is Associate Professor/Regional Specialist – Potato, Vegetable, and Seed Crops, at Washington State University. In an article published last week, Wohleb discusses a range of important issues regarding PVY, including how growers and consultants can identify the presence of the disease in a timely fashion when scouting potato fields. Read the article

Plant disease diagnostic company expands into the US

Related imagePocket Diagnostic® announces the addition of another distributor of its plant disease rapid tests in the United States. Potadaho Seed Services (“Potadaho”) joins the Pocket Diagnostic distributor network having amassed a wealth of knowledge and experience working in the potato industry in the Pacific Northwest over many years. UK based Pocket Diagnostic plant disease tests have been benefiting the potato, horticulture and forestry industries for nearly twenty years. Pocket Diagnostic produces in-field results in a matter of minutes, which enables advisors, inspectors and growers alike to confirm the presence of a plant pathogen quickly, including Potato virus Y, Ralstonia solanacearum, and Phytophthora. Says Sales and Marketing Executive Malcolm Briggs: “We are pleased to add to our growing distributor network in North America. Last year we were delighted to announce our first partner in the States alongside the addition of a Canadian distributor. The addition of another distributor in this region further enhances our position in the plant health testing market.” Read more

Hot potato fries: A different kind of brain food

Related imageA team of international scientists appear to have discovered why hot potato fries/chips are so tasty. Simply put, the brain gets ‘hijacked’ by the combination of high-fat and high-carbohydrates – making hot chips and similar food highly attractive. Scientists from Yale University wired 206 people up to brain scanners, and then showed them images of fatty, carby and so-called ‘combo’ snacks like hot fries – which are high in both carbs and fat. Every time an image of a combo snack came on the screen, the reward centres in the subjects’ brains lit up – regardless of whether they said they liked it or not. The research paper was published in the journal Cell Metabolism and re-posted by Scimex. In essence the scientists found that foods high in both fat AND carbohydrates trigger the reward centre of the brain, more so than other processed foods that may just contain one or the other.  Continue reading

Spud think tank: Roundup of the World Potato Congress event in Peru

World Potato Congress highlights scientific advances Tubers were the talk of the town in Cusco, Peru during the week of May 27, when the 10th World Potato Congress (WPC) and the 28th Congress of the Latin American Potato Association (ALAP) were held together for the first time. The event drew more than 800 participants from 50 countries to the potato’s center of origin for four days of scientific presentations, networking, field trips and celebration of the potato’s cultural and economic importance. The role that potatoes can play in improving the lives and health of the world’s population was a major theme of the gathering. The dozens of presentations at the congress proved that the potato is one of the world’s most diverse crops, with perhaps as much or more undiscovered as known potential. Governments and businesses across the globe view the crop as a way of feeding people nutritionally and affordably, from using resources more efficiently to resisting pest, drought and disease to breeding enhanced health benefits and even the appeal of peel. Cedric Porter, Editor of World Potato Market, wrote a roundup of the research presentations at the Congress in Peru.  Continue reading

Untying the knots: Dutch researchers look at biocontrol of root knot nematodes by increasing soil disease suppressiveness

Related imageIn organic vegetable cultivation in the Netherlands, root knot nematodes are one of the major problems. According to scientists at Wageningen Plant Research, the problems with root knot nematodes is also increasing in other soil based cultivation systems. The numbers of available and effective chemical control products against soilborne diseases and pests are limited, though. In addition, the combination of different pathogens can be a problem in soil-based cultivation. The presence of root knot nematodes, for example, can increase the sensitivity to Verticillium and Fusarium. The researchers at Wageningen believe that disease suppressive soil might be a viable alternative. Disease suppression in soil is a result of various factors and therefore requires a system approach, they say. In addition, combining different measures can increase soil disease resilience through synergistic effect. A research project is currently underway looking into the possibility of increasing soil suppression against root knot nematode (Meloidogyne sp.), Pythium ultimum and Verticillium dahlia. Read more. Further information from Microbial Ecologist, dr. Marta Streminska.

Fries, mash, hash browns, chips, vodka, and now… The art show that’s all potatoes

Seongmin Ahn's "Multifaceted Potato" incorporates actual potatoes. Consider the humble potato. Linguistically, it’s often used to denigrate. Unimportant things are “small potatoes,” and we all try not to be “couch potatoes.” Nearly alone among vegetables, its nutritional value is questioned by some, making mashed potatoes and french fries something of a guilty pleasure. But to artist and professor Jeffrey Allen Price, potatoes transcend their homely image. Potatoes remain “humble, earthy, versatile, and healthy,” Price says. In fact, he might be the potato’s number one hype man. Price is the proud owner of 5,000 pieces of potato ephemera, from toys to books to snacks. He collects on behalf of his Think Potato Institute, which encompasses potato art, potato music, and potato events. Until June 15, 100 of his collectables will be on display at Stony Brook University’s Charles B. Wang Center in New York. At the exhibition—titled Potasia: Potatosism in the East—the potato is king. Each and every work incorporates potatoes, whether in paint, video, or actual embellished potatoes. Potasia is the sixth potato-themed art show that Price has curated. Read more

Allies in the skies: Drone industry launches into specialty agriculture market

In this well researched, in depth article on the current application of drones in agriculture, Stephen Kloosterman, Assistant Editor at Vegetable Growers News writes that drone scouts are poised to make precision agriculture even more exact as drone technology advances. Seventeen percent of all commercial registered drones in 2017 in the US were used for agriculture, making it the third-highest use for the machines. Specialty agriculture is a part of that precision agriculture market for drones. Aeronautics firms such as the French-based company Delair-Tech and the American defense drone contractor AeroVironment are marketing their integrated sensor agriculture drones to specialty crop producers. Academics, too, are studying drone uses for specialty crops. Making drone data and imagery relevant to growers’ management decisions is essential, Kloosterman writes. According to one specialist: “The market is increasing every year. There’s a lot of people getting more excited about incorporating imagery into their management decisions, so definitely there’s a lot of growth going on.” Read the full article

Breath of Life: How to optimize ventilation in potato storage facilities

Related image“Potatoes in storage are living. It is the job of the storage manager to ensure the crop sustains that life,” writes storage specialist Duane Gorman in the Potatoes in Canada magazine. He points out that after a final holding temperature is achieved in storage, it is important to ventilate properly in order to manage the byproducts of respiration, ensure a uniform temperature and an ideal environment for the duration of the storage period, which will maximize the value of the crop. Condition and end use of the crop, as well as the airflow capacity of the ventilation system are all factors that will lend to a ventilation schedule. Ventilation should be kept to a minimum as overventilation or recreational ventilation will cause unnecessary weight loss and increased power consumption. In addition to temperature, the second byproduct, carbon dioxide, must also be managed. Carbon dioxide is known to have a darkening effect on processed end products, such as chips and fries. Despite the temptation to overventilate, as a result of fear of condensation or hot spots, storage managers must take care to ventilate only as required. Read the full article

Pick-a-choose your Big Mac: Burger and fry chain to add more customer choice and variety

Love the sauce? Wait for it ...As McDonald’s seeks to modernize its business, the company is placing a big bet on mobile and other tech platforms, including mobile phones. McDonald’s has been systematically adding self-service ordering kiosks and table service to stores as it works to “build a better McDonald’s.” “What we’re finding is when people dwell more, they select more,” CEO Steve Easterbrook told CNBC on “Squawk on the Street” on Monday. In fact, the company plans to upgrade 1,000 stores with this technology every quarter for the next eight to nine quarters. International markets like Canada, Australia and the U.K. are already fully integrated with kiosk service and mobile ordering. “We’re introducing many options,” Esterbrook said. “Customers can order through mobile, they can come curbside and we’ll run it out as well as the existing traditional ways. You can pay in different ways and customize your food in different ways. I think we’re trying to add more choice and variety.” Read the full report on CNBC

Million dollar question: Do some potato-growing soils suppress powdery scab?

Related imageA research project in New Zealand is determining if different field soils affect development of powdery scab on potatoes, and whether soil physical, chemical and/or biological characteristics influence this important potato disease. The project is developing new knowledge that may provide a basis for manipulating soil factors to reduce the harmful effects of the powdery scab pathogen. A cross-discipline team is working in the project, including plant pathologists, soil scientists and molecular biologists. In the study’s first phase, 12 field soils (including the soil from the 10-year Pukekohe trial site) have been evaluated for disease “conduciveness”, and their physical, chemical and biological characteristics are being determined. Data gathered from these different analyses will be integrated to determine if individual or combinations of soil physical, chemical or biological characteristics are associated with suppression of Spongospora diseases. Information about the project is available from research lead, Prof Richard Falloon, at Further details can be found on this page of the Potatoes NZ website.

Media nonsense exposed: AHDB Potatoes busting myths on potatoes and health in mainstream media

Related imageAHDB Potatoes in the UK recently produced a document outlining the truth on the nutritional benefits of the potato. The aim was to ‘cut through the noise’ and ‘bust the myths’ on potatoes and health that appear in the mainstream media. Everything in the document is scientifcally proven, by sources such as nutrition bible McCance and Widdowson’s the Composition of Foods​, and Public Health England. AHDB Potatoes also created a bank of Twitter and Facebook graphics. Download the guide and graphics here, and promote the potato using statements approved by the EU, and Public Health England. Despite the simple truth about the health benefits of potatoes, consumers often feel confused about nutrition based on conflicting messages in the mainstream media. Much of this stems from the practice of taking isolated facts, out of context, to produce an attention grabbing headline. In June 2018, AHDB Potatoes made a statement on behalf of the industry, after a  misleading article in the Daily Mail. Read the full statement here. Confusion, when it comes to potatoes, often arises over the treatment of carbohydrates. An extract from the June 2018 statement addresses this… Read more

Sneaking in: Nanotechnology shown to increase penetration rate of nutrients into plants

Figure 1An innovative technology developed at the Technion, (Israel Institute of Technology, and Israel’s first university) could lead to significant increases in agricultural yields. Using a nanometric transport platform on plants that was previously utilized for targeted drug delivery, researchers increased the penetration rate of nutrients into the plants, from 1 percent to approximately 33 percent. The findings were recently published in Scientific Reports and are scheduled to be presented in Nature Press. Use of nanotechnology for targeted drug delivery is a new approach, and is the focus of the research activity being conducted at the Laboratory for Targeted Drug Delivery and Personalized Medicine Technologies at the Wolfson Faculty of Chemical Engineering. The present research, which repurposed the technology for agricultural use, was performed by the laboratory director, Assistant Professor Avi Schroeder, and graduate student, Avishai Karny. According to Schroeder, “the present work provides a new means of delivering essential nutrients without harming the environment.” Read more. View full research paper

High tech farming: There’s an app for that

Related imageAs agriculture becomes more high tech, a growing number of farmers are using GPS-equipped machinery supported by platforms that collect data on plants, soil, and weather. Termed “precision agriculture,” these technologies help them identify and manage variability within fields. Armed with data, farmers can fine-tune their operations, potentially increasing yields and profits, Kelsey Nowakowski once wrote. New technologies allow farmers to harness data to increase their lands’ productivity. Most begin the cycle by collecting data about their crop yields, using GPS harvesting machines. Farmers also create unique maps of their fields based on soil samples and related data. Farmers get real-data on weather patterns on their smart phones and tablets. Computers analyze data, helping farmers to make more informed and precise decisions than ever before possible. Farmers manage data sets on user friendly social media platforms run by agricultural companies and consultancies. With more ability to scale, large farms have higher rates of adoption for the most popular precision agriculture technologies, including soil and yield mapping and guidance systems.The bottom line: Precision agriculture require investment, but the benefits outweigh the cost. Read full article in National Geographic