McDonald’s Russia turns to local fries from new processing plant, citing Western sanction woes

Related imageFrench fries at McDonald’s restaurants from Moscow to Murmansk will be Russian from now on, as the American fast-food chain turns to homegrown potatoes to deal with ruble volatility caused by fluctuating oil prices and Western sanctions. McDonald’s Corp, which opened in Russia in 1990 as the Soviet Union collapsed, has been gradually turning to local ingredients in its Russian outlets for everything from Big Macs to chicken burgers since it opened its doors there. But till now it had relied on frozen French fries from the Netherlands and Poland as Russian spuds weren’t quite right. Now a new plant near Lipetsk, a city 450 km (280 miles) south of Moscow, using potatoes grown on local farms will supply frozen fries to the chain of 651 outlets across Russia under a long-term contract, raising the share of the chain’s locally sourced products to 98 per cent. Globe and Mail report. Reuters report

Biofertilizers 2018: Finally making inroads?

Related imageAlthough they may seem like newer entries into the agricultural marketplace, some of the products that are part of the biofertilizers sector have been around for a long time. “Considering some of these products have actually been around for over 20 years, we are just starting to recognize their potential,” observes Dr. Chris Underwood, Chemist and Product Development Manager for AgroLiquid. Of course, part of the reason could be because of some confusion as to what constitutes a biofertilizer vs. a biostimulant. According to most of the experts CropLife® magazine spoke with, biofertilizers are defined as microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi that can increase nutrient availability and utilization by plants. They are oftentimes referred to as a “sub-category” of biostimulants. “Common examples of biofertilizers include mycorrhizai fungi, rhizobium, and plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR),” says Jane Fife, Chief Science Officer for 3Bar Biologics. More

Mixed results for US potato exports, but strong growth in frozen sector

Related imageU.S. exports of fresh potatoes were down 7 percent by volume but up 27 percent by value to $13.6 million in February 2018 compared to 2017. The volume of exports of fresh potatoes (table-stock and chip-stock) were caused by the 33 percent decline to the largest market, Canada. Despite the higher prices, exports of fresh potatoes to Mexico were up 34 percent while Japan (chip-stock) grew by 17 percent and Taiwan was up 95 percent. Frozen potatoes saw strong growth with volume up 6 percent and the value up 6 percent as well, to over $90 million. Exports of dehydrated potatoes were off 12 percent by volume and 6 percent by value for a monthly total of just under $14 million. The increase in frozen exports was driven by 20 percent volume increase to Mexico, 38 percent increase to Central America, 64 percent increase to Taiwan and a 23 percent increase to the Philippines. More

Science discovery: Plants talk to each other using an internet of fungi

The roots of shoots can form a hidden network (credit: Mycatkins CC by 2.0)Hidden under your feet is an information superhighway that allows plants to communicate and help each other out. It’s made of fungi. It’s an information superhighway that speeds up interactions between a large, diverse population of individuals. It allows individuals who may be widely separated to communicate and help each other out. But it also allows them to commit new forms of crime. No, we’re not talking about the internet, we’re talking about fungi. While mushrooms might be the most familiar part of a fungus, most of their bodies are made up of a mass of thin threads, known as a mycelium. We now know that these threads act as a kind of underground internet, linking the roots of different plants. That tree in your garden is probably hooked up to a bush several metres away, thanks to mycelia. By linking to the fungal network they can help out their neighbours by sharing nutrients and information – or sabotage unwelcome plants by spreading toxic chemicals through the network. This “wood wide web”, it turns out, even has its own version of cyber-crime. More

Hi-tech: New imaging technology to spot diseases and infestations at an earlier stage

The expected benefits of adopting the equipment could have a significant impact on overall crop yieldA new type of imaging system for use in agriculture, designed to be far less expensive than existing technology and to increase crop yield, is being developed in the UK. Academics and the farming industry have teamed up to develop a new type of hyperspectral imaging (HSI) system. The UK government-funded collaboration has the potential to introduce an affordable spectral imaging technology to help agricultural businesses monitor and maximise crop production in fields and greenhouses. The sensors in development are expected to be up to 90% cheaper than equivalent equipment currently on the market. It is anticipated that adopting the technology will allow farmers to monitor various crop attributes including plant health, hydration levels and disease indicators. As a result, it is envisaged that farmers will be able to: optimise the impact of fertilisation; save water by employing more efficient irrigation methods; and, critically, spot diseases and infestations at an earlier stage, allowing them to avoid blights. Report by FarmingUK

Trending: Biostimulants gaining ground

Related imageConsumers have stepped up their demand for food produced more sustainably, with fewer “hard” chemicals and more compounds from nature. Biostimulants are helping increasing numbers of growers answer that call. “Growers are embracing these products rapidly as they search for ‘greener’ options to produce their crops,” says Rad Page, Chief Commercial Officer for PlantResponse. “They’re also demanding that these products have solid science behind them and produce a consistent return on their investment. We think these expectations are driving the increased investment and innovation in this market segment.” The global biostimulant market is currently valued at approximately $2 billion, reports Dr. John Bailey, National Row Crops Product Manager with Timac Agro USA. “Europe has the largest share at around 45%, North America and Asia have approximately 20% each, and Latin America comes in at around 15%.” Many in the industry believe there is a lack of understanding of what these products do.  Continue reading

Hort expert informs on the importance of calcium for quality potato production

Factsheet: Role of Calcium in Potato Quality and ProductionIn a recently published factsheet, Professor Jiwan Palta from the Dept of Horticulture at the University of Wisconsin, provides growers with an overview of the role that calcium plays in potato development and tuber health. Palta was the recipient of the Wisconsin Potato and Vegetable Growers Association Researcher of the Year Award for 2016, and has been studying the role of calcium in potato production for many years. Some of the benefits of calcium application that he highlights, are: reduced storage rot; reduced incidences of internal defects, including hollow heart, brown spots, black spot bruise; reduced impact of heat and cold stresses on plant and reduced incidence of internal heat necrosis of tubers; as well as improved seed piece quality and sprout health (more robust plant). The factsheet was compiled in collaboration with Ryan Barratt at the Prince Edward Island Potato Board in Canada – go here to download it as a pdf file

Focus on Soil: World renowned soil ecologist explains the life-giving link between carbon and healthy topsoil

Image result for soilTo the pressing worldwide challenge of restoring soil carbon and rebuilding topsoil, the Australian soil ecologist Dr. Christine Jones offers an accessible, revolutionary perspective for improving landscape health and farm productivity. For several decades, Jones has helped innovative farmers and ranchers implement regenerative agricultural systems that provide remarkable benefits for biodiversity, carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, water management, and productivity.  During an interview by Tracy Frisch of Acres U.S.A Magazine, Jones said that people have for long confused the weathering of rock, which is a very, very slow process, with the building of topsoil, which is altogether different. Most of the ingredients for new topsoil come from the atmosphere — carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. “The issue we’re facing is that too much of the carbon that was once in a solid phase in the soil has become a gas. That could be dangerous for the human species. Climate change is just one aspect. Food security, the nutrient density of food and the water-holding capacity of the soil are also very potent reasons for keeping carbon in a solid phase in the soil.” More

Soil your undies: ‘Healthy soil will eat your underwear if you plant it’

Related imageHow healthy is your soil? If you want to know all you have to do is bury your underwear, says Canada’s Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Rural Affairs (OMAFRA) soil management specialist Adam Hayes. Last summer, Hayes helped members of a crop improvement association bury underwear in their fields to determine the amount of biological activity in their soils. They buried cotton briefs six to eight inches deep in the soil in late May and then dug them up in early August. In this interview, recorded this week at the Ontario Soil and Crop Improvement Association annual meeting in London, Hayes explains that healthy soils teeming with bacteria, fungi and earthworms will eat and devour your cotton briefs, but they suffer much less damage in soils with lower levels of biological activity. Hayes encourages farmers to bury underwear in their fields to assess soil health. He recommends farmers watch the Soil Your Undies Cotton Test video produced by the Innovative Farmers Association of Ontario for tips on how to run the experiment on their farm. Related: What Underwear Can or Cannot Tell You About Soil Health

Low-carb potatoes on the rise around the world

Image result for low carb potatoesLow-carb potatoes are getting attention throughout the world. In recent years, a number of varieties were introduced that are lower in carbs than conventional potatoes. Agrico introduced new potato variety Carisma a few years ago, and this contains naturally slowly digestive carbs. When developing the variety, Agrico worked with partners in Australia. Carisma is available at supermarket chains Albert Heijn and Emté in the Netherlands. Carisma is also being grown in Canada. The Scottish company Grampian Growers announced a new potato variety in 2015. Research shows the Gemson potato is similar to the Maris Peer potato regarding nutritional values, but that the Gemson has fewer carbohydrates. Potandon Produce from Idaho introduced a new potato variety in the autumn of 2017, and this potato – the CarbSmart potato – is said to contain 55 per cent fewer carbs than rice or pasta. In New Zealand, a new low-carb potato of T&G Global – Lotato – became a success within a few weeks. Years ago, HZPC developed and introduced the Sunlite concept: Potatoes with 30 per cent fewer calories than regular potatoes. The concept was introduced in the US, Spain, Italy and Cyprus. More

New potato variety said to have higher proportion of nutritious “slow” carbohydrates

Image result for Mistra Biotech potatoA research group at Mistra Biotech has recently made a major breakthrough: they have developed a new potato variety with a higher proportion of nutritious “slow” carbohydrates. “This is wonderful news. This potato, with its higher content of resistant starch, has many good health characteristics,” says Xue Zhao, a PhD student researching vegetable food at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences (SLU) in Uppsala. The new potato was developed by a group of plant breeders in Mistra Biotech, headed by Mariette Andersson. This potato’s main characteristic is its relatively high content of “resistant starch” —starch that behaves like fiber; that is, instead of being absorbed by the small intestine, it enters the large intestine undigested. This confers numerous positive health effects. For example, it reduces glucose levels and insulin reactions; optimizes bacterial flora in the gut and gives a good boost to processes in the stomach; and can also facilitate weight loss. More

China aims to be first nation to grow potatoes and silkworm on the Moon

The Soviet Republic was the first country to send a man into outer space. The US landed the first man on the Moon. Now, China wants to check its first as well: they want to grow plants, including potatoes, and silkworm on the Moon. According to a recent announcement, seeds of potatoes and Arabidopsis — a small flowering plant related to cabbage and mustard, often used in research — will be planted on the Moon. Along with silkworm cocoons, the seeds will be launched with the Chang’e-4 moon lander and rover. China’s first probe to the far side of the Moon is currently scheduled for December. The seeds will be placed inside a cylindrical tin made from a special aluminum alloy. The tin is 18 cm tall, with a diameter of 16 cm, a net volume of 0.8 liters and a weight of 3 kilograms. It also contains water, air, and a special nutrient mixture, as well as a camera and a data transmission system. If everything goes according to plan, the seeds will be planted, they will grow and blossom and the entire process will be captured on camera. (Source: ZME Science)

Are your potatoes getting enough calcium?

Are your potatoes getting enough calcium?Calcium is a vital nutrient for potatoes and most aspects of tuber quality can be improved by having a sufficient supply of calcium during growth. It is required in the crop for the maintenance of cell walls, healthy leaf and tuber development. Calcium prevents a wide range of tuber quality problems. Calcium deficiency is widely known as internal rust spot – a physiological internal defect in which small brown spots, due to cell death, appear in the tuber. This is directly related to a lack of calcium within the cell walls, meaning that they aren’t strong enough and when cell expansion takes place they collapse and necrosis occurs. A sufficient supply of calcium will help ensure the skin has a good finish as well as helping against physical damage which can occur during harvesting and handling. Finally it can also help prevent bacterial diseases affecting the tubers. Stronger skins means less damage; which helps decrease bacterial infection through the broken surface. More

Not snake oil any longer: The case of new generation nitrogen products for potatoes

Some experts say nitrogen is the most used but least understood input on potato crops. Novel forms of fertiliser have often been dismissed as snake oil, but now a new generation of products have been developed, created by scientists and led by the physiology of the potato crop. From a scientific point of view, fertiliser technology is still very much in its infancy. The forms currently widely used today have been adopted because they’re easy to source in large quantities. They’ve been designed by chemists rather than biologists and haven’t had the crop’s physiology in mind. As a result, fertiliser uptake by plants is an inefficient process, with rates of recovery for nitrogen fertilisers in the region of 25-35%. But the tide is turning. Fertiliser technologies are now being developed that are physiologically-led and underpinned by sound, peer-reviewed scientific research. Dr David Marks, managing director of Levity Crop Science, explains why these products are better and can help achieve a higher marketable yield of potatoes. Read this in-depth article on the CPM website

Late blight scare: Migrant European pathogen generated aggressive new variants in India, not yet found elsewhere globally

Image result for potato late blight indiaAn international team of scientists from several countries including India, the UK and the US examined the population structure of the Phytophthora infestans pathogen that caused the 2013–14 late blight epidemic in eastern and northeastern India. Their findings were published online recently in the journal Nature.The data provide new baseline information for populations of Pinfestans in India. It was found that a migrant European 13_A2 genotype was responsible for the 2013–14 epidemic, replacing the existing populations. Mutations have generated substantial sub-clonal variation of which 19 were unique variants not yet reported elsewhere globally. The new A2 population is aggressive and has displaced the former populations. The pathogen is resistant to the fungicide metalaxyl, a commonly used fungicide Continue reading