‘Challenge is to guarantee quality of potatoes,’ says trader in Belgium

The potato market in Europe is still under pressure because of the dry weather. “The rain that fell in recent days, is a bit too late. The damage has been done. Some varieties will recover somewhat, but yields will be low. Yields are between 15 and 30 tonnes, and that’s very disappointing,” says Bart Nemegheer of De Aardappelhoeve in Belgium. It’s difficult to fulfil the contracts on the market, because growers don’t have the potatoes. “Last week there was a meeting between industry and the potato sector, and it was decided to relax quality requirements somewhat. People are looking for a solution, but this year is just going to be problematic.” Because of the extreme heat, the sprout dormancy was interrupted, says Nemegheer, “resulting in a worse storability. It will be a challenge to guarantee quality up to the end of the season.” Read more

Dewulf unveils 150t/hour Field Loader

Root crop and spud kit specialist Dewulf has launched a stand-alone Field Loader that is able to process up to 150t/hour. Tipping trailers can unload directly into the transfer machine’s 2.4m-wide bunker floor, before the crop is sent through a 10-roller cleaning unit. The openings between rollers are electrically adjustable to reduce the amount of soil and waste in the load and there is space for two people at the inspection table. Material is then directed onto a four-piece discharge elevator, which pivots through 120deg and will reach up to 6,187mm, or 5,630mm when at maximum height, so should be able to reach deep into a waiting truck. Read more

France: Historic low potato yields expected

As the early potato season comes to an end in France, early potatoes and the new crops are now taking over. The first available data indicate, for the moment, yields down by about 7% compared to the five-year average. More potatoes were planted: + 3.6% in France and + 1% for the 5 NEPG countries. While average planting dates were later, following the adverse weather conditions during the spring for a number of weeks, the general growth of potatoes were negatively affected. Plants are now in general slowing down as far as growth is concerned and this will limit any chance of a higher average yield developing in the weeks to come. A final total harvest of between 5.2 and 5.7 million tons is expected, with irrigated fields around 13 tons per ha higher than un-irrigated areas. Some producers of processing potatoes may not be able to honour their contract commitments with processors as far as volume and quality are concerned. The starch sector is experiencing similar problems, both in terms of total volume as well as quality. Virtually no starch potatoes are irrigated. (Source: UNPT. News in French here

Dutch and Belgian potato representatives meet to discuss current situation in the potato sector

The extreme weather conditions of recent months caused a commotion in the potato sector in Europe. Many growers suffered damages, resulting in lower yields this year. In various media outlets, the re-negotiation of contracts between growers and the processing industry has recently been mentioned frequently. This is why parties from both the Dutch and Belgian potato sectors came together to discuss this and to voice their worries. “VAVI has been in contact with LTO to discuss the situation on the potato market more than once, but this time we met physically. However, the discussion was blown out of proportion by the media,” says Hylke Brunt of the VAVI in the Netherlands. LTO wants to renegotiate contracts between growers and the processing industry to compensate for costs of irrigation, for example. In Belgium, the organization Belgapom met with Agrofront and three Belgian agricultural organisations.  Continue reading

‘Potatoes less exposed to Brexit risks than many other sectors’

Field of potatoes, potato blightBrexit may provide British potato farmers with an opportunity to substitute imports if trade barriers are imposed by Brussels. As a result, it means the sector could be less exposed than others in the industry. That is the message from David Swales, head of strategic insight at the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), who spoke at ‘Potatoes in Practice’ in Dundee on Thursday, August 9. “Tariff-free access is critical for most sectors, but for potatoes, barriers might present opportunities for import substitution – particularly in the processing sector,” he said. As he addressed a predominantly Scottish audience, Swales said: “That for the potato industry north of the border, trade barriers may translate into a larger domestic market for seed producers.” In an attempt to ensure a smooth transition into life after Brexit, AHDB has launched a new online calculator. The Brexit Impact Calculator allows individuals to input their own data and see what effects the different Brexit scenarios might have on their business. Read more

‘Protecting Potatoes’: New display in Edinburgh highlights the importance of wild potato varieties

‘Protecting Potatoes’ is a new plant display with interpretation for summer 2018 at the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. It can be found in the Demonstration Garden and the Temperate Palm House, and has been funded by SEFARI. The aim is to highlight the importance of wild potatoes for the future survival of the domesticated spud. Now, it may not be immediately obvious how wild potatoes can be used to protect what is the fourth most important crop on a global scale. The simple answer is that they have useful genes which can tackle all sorts of threats to the potato crop. This is why research at the Botanics, and in particular at the James Hutton Institute, has focused on the so-called ‘crop wild relatives’ of potato. Working with the James Hutton Institute and SASA, the Botanics assembled a display of eight wild potato species. The display includes numerous forms of the domesticated potato.  Amongst these are some unusual and curious looking traditional varieties from the Andes. Read more

Heavy rain, humid conditions and threat of potato blight forecast for Ireland

Weather outlook: Heavy rain, humid conditions and threat of potato blight forecastUnsettled weather conditions are in store this week for Ireland with a mixture of sunny spells, heavy rain, rising temperatures and humid conditions expected countrywide, according to Met Eireann. The national meteorological service has reiterated its Status Yellow warning that current conditions are conducive to the spread of potato blight – which it expects is “likely to develop” in parts of west Ulster later today (August 14). In its latest farming commentary, Met Eireann said it is likely that a spell of rain on Wednesday (August 15) will bring “significant rainfall amounts” to all parts of the country resulting in above average rainfall amounts. It is anticipated that the rain will extend eastwards throughout the day bringing a “steady fall” of rain across the country. The rain will clear to showers on Wednesday evening. Highest temperatures are due to reach between 17° and 21° early in the day – with moderate to fresh southerly winds veering southwesterly with the clearing rain and introducing cooler, fresher conditions. Read more

The glyphosate saga: $289 million Roundup cancer verdict sends Bayer shares reeling

Roundup products are seen for sale at a hardware store in San Rafael, California, on July, 9, 2018Bayer shares plunged on Monday, losing about $14 billion in value, after newly acquired Monsanto was ordered to pay $289 million in damages in the first of possibly thousands of U.S. lawsuits over alleged links between a weedkiller and cancer. After the verdict in favor of a California school groundskeeper with terminal cancer, Monsanto faces more than 5,000 similar lawsuits across the United States over claims it did not warn of the cancer risks of glyphosate-based weedkillers, including its Roundup brand. But the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) continues to insist that glyphosate is safe when used carefully. Bayer shares were down 11.2 percent, the worst performing stock on the Stoxx Europe 600 index, and on track to close at their lowest in almost five years. Barclays analysts said Bayer was in for a “litigious headache”.  Continue reading

Crop alert issued: North-Western European potato crop will be ‘much lower with quality concerns’, says grower group NEPG

In a press release issued today, the grower organization NEPG (North-Western European Potato Growers) says that it is now becoming clear that the 2018 potato crop will be much lower and quality issues will be a main challenge throughout North-Western Europe. The NEPG represents potato growers in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the UK. “Extreme record drought conditions and exceptionally high temperatures are at the order of the day all over the main potato growing countries in Europe,” the organization says in the release. “Not even 50 % of the North-Western European potato acreage can be irrigated, and in spite of the high cost, irrigation pumps are working day and night. But in all countries restrictions for the use of water have been imposed by regional administrations.” The unfavourable conditions will also effect the yield for seed potatoes, the NEPG says.  Continue reading

Blight: Integrated thinking for late blight control

Earlier this spring AHDB in the UK produced comprehensive new guidance on controlling late blight in light of the increase in the aggressive blight strain 37_A2. CPM takes a closer look. There’s been much talk about blight programmes since the 37_A2 late blight genotype emerged in the UK. It’s of particular significance because the new strain appears to be aggressive, highlighted by its relatively rapid increase in the blight population last season (from 3 to 24% of samples tested). As well as its ability to compete with rival blight strains, 37_A2 has a reduced sensitivity to fluazinam, which played a part in some of the problems experienced with tuber blight.  Continue reading

The drought issue: European-wide drought threatens harvests from Sweden to the Czech Republic

Image result for European Drought Threatens Harvests From Sweden to the Czech RepublicFor farmers in central and northern Europe, this summer’s unusually high temperatures aren’t just uncomfortable, they are putting their harvests at risk, The Guardian reported. The drought, caused by high temperatures and low rainfall since May 2018, is the worst in recent memory for the region, according to The Guardian. “Older families around me are comparing this to 1976,” 25-year-old Dutch farmer Iris Bouwers told The Guardian. “My dad can’t remember any drought like this.” Bouwers said her family stood to lose €100,000, as their potato crop is likely to fall by 30 percent, and their savings won’t cover the loss because of an investment made in a pig stable. They aren’t the only ones.  Continue reading

Fry quibble: France and Belgium lock horns (again) over who invented ‘French’ fries

Image result for France and Belgium lock horns over who invented 'French' friesProud Belgians have hit back after a leading French newspaper claimed that frites – the world-famous chips served with Belgium’s national dish of mussels – were invented in France. Le Figaro printed the story under the headline “No, French fries are not Belgian” last Wednesday, which was particularly provocative because August 1 is also the International Day of the Belgian Frites. Historian Pierre Leclercq insisted that modern day frites was first served on the streets of Paris to theatre-goers in the revolutionary era. Legend has it that American soldiers serving in World War One incorrectly named Belgian frites “French fries” and the name stuck. According to Bernard Lefèvre, president of Navefri-Unafri, the national association for frietkoten: “If frites would have been French, which they are not, there would be an international museum of frites in Paris, which there is not.” “As far as we’re concerned, “fries” are undeniably Belgian!,” said Andrew Daines of  Belgian tourist group VisitFlanders. Read more

James Hutton Institute: New findings could lead to climate-resilient potato varieties in future

Image result for james hutton potatoes in practiceResearch at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland has led to the discovery of genetic variations which can help protect potato crop yields at high temperature, potentially providing potato breeders with a valuable tool in their quest to create varieties resilient to heat stress. The findings were discussed by Dr Mark Taylor at the Potatoes in Practice 2018 event this week. Stress-resistant crops can be an important resource to preserve food security in the face of increased temperatures, such as those brought about by the recent UK heatwave. Dr Taylor said: ““Heat tolerant varieties are especially important for Scottish seed exports to growing markets in warm countries. Although most potato varieties are sensitive to heat there is significant variation in response to heat stress between different potato cultivars, and recent research at the Hutton has led to the discovery of genetic variations which can help protect potato crop yields at high temperature.” Recent leaps in the understanding of genomics, genetics and crop science, funded by the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research Fund, have made this type of genetic screening possible. Read more

The drought issue: Belgian potato fry processors alarmed as heat hampers production; Bintje variety much affected

FriesSpudnik News report earlier today that Belgium’s early season potato crop has already been reduced by about 30% due to the current European-wide heatwave, which especially damaged the size of the potatoes and the roughness of their skins. The ongoing unusually hot weather in Belgium has already ridden roughshod over the Bintje potato variety, a staple in the production of fries in that country. With the heatwave showing no signs of abating, Belgian fry makers are concerned that the Bintje variety cannot be handled as usual by processing peeling machines due to the roughness of their skins and small average size caused by the drought. Bernard Lefevre, president of Unafri-Navefri, the Belgian association overlooking the production of fries, said that “prices have already increased and potatoes will be smaller… “We are hopeful. Frites are essential. It is vital. It is part of our culture. It’s more than a product — it’s a symbol of Belgium.” Read more

UK: Emergency approval granted for organic potato blight product

Emergency approval granted for CuprokyltA breakthrough emergency authorisation for Cuprokylt (copper oxychloride) provides the only fungicide available to organic potato growers in Britain for the control of late blight, at a key time of the season. The Extension of Authorisation for Minor Uses (EAMU) was driven by industry leading stakeholders, including Certis, Agrii, the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), National Farmers’ Union and several organic growers associations. “Being able to utilise copper oxychloride will support organic growers and help them to capitalise on market demand,” said Nick Winmill, Agrii Potato development manager.  Continue reading