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

Weed control goes digital: Advanced spot-spraying precision technology in development

Weed scientist Andrew McKenzie-Gopsill with digital camera, sensor and controller mechanism that can be  mounted on a sprayer and tractor to read crop plant locations.Researchers are combining new digital tools, computer technologies and machine learning to bring cost-effective weed control solutions to the field. This weed control solution is being designed as an advanced spot-spraying precision technology that will help farmers reduce input costs and add another management tool to their integrated management systems. “We are developing a high-tech ground-based sensor technology as another cost-effective precision agriculture tool for weed control in potatoes and other crops,” says Andrew McKenzie-Gopsill, weed scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Prince Edward Island. This five-year project was initiated in 2017 and is still in the early stages of data collection. The whole control system would be mounted to an existing sprayer, including a small inexpensive camera mounted above the canopy, and a mini computer to connect to the sprayer control system to control which nozzles are turned on or off. More

US: Grower due diligence important in control of newly emerged potato blackleg pathogen

A new blackleg pathogen, Dickeya dianthicola, emerged in the eastern U.S. in 2015. Since then researchers have been working to find ways to control the disease, as it causes significant yield loss in potato crops. While progress in terms of control methods has been slow, growers who have adapted suggested best management practices have contributed to the disease’s decline. While the disease’s decline could be attributed to weather conditions, which were mostly unfavorable to the its development, Gary Secor, professor of plant pathology at North Dakota State University, attributes the drop-off to seed lot testing and growers’ due diligence. “It is a bacterial disease, so we don’t have any really good chemicals that we can use to manage dickeya,” Secor said. Antibiotics were proposed as a possible solution, but Amy Charkowski, head of bioagricultural science and pest management at Colorado State University, says they’re really not an option since they’re very costly. 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

Maine Potato Board monitoring U.S.-China trade disputes

Photo / Mainebiz archivesThe Maine Potato Board is keeping a close watch on trade disputes between the United States and China, which is one of the top five export markets for U.S. potato products. The County reported the board is concerned about the possibility of potatoes becoming subject to tariffs if the trade dispute between China and the U.S. extends beyond China’s announced plans to impose a 25% tariff on $50 billion of U.S. goods that include soybeans, aircraft and automobiles. Maine Potato Board Executive Director Don Flannery told The County that although potatoes haven’t been mentioned as a possible target of Chinese tariffs, “our product could be on the list at any time.” Maine potato farmers harvested 48,500 acres in 2017, with sales exceeding $162.3 million. “China does import a number of potatoes because they are an alternative to rice,” Flannery told the newspaper. With worldwide trade in potatoes and potato products averaging 8% annual growth, there remains significant opportunities for U.S. exports to continue to grow, according to a USPB news release. More

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

Wisconsin’s ‘Healthy Grown’ potato program advances growers’ use of bio-intensive IPM

Image result for Wisconsin Healthy Grown Potato ProgramWisconsin’s “Healthy Grown” potato program has been thriving in advancing innovative, ecologically sound production systems and currently, around 8000 acres of fresh market potatoes are grown under stringent environmental protocols. “Healthy Grown” works to advance growers’ use of biointensive IPM, reduce reliance on high-risk pesticides, and to enhance ecosystem conservation efforts through the high-bar, sustainable potato and vegetable standards. In a series of videos published on YouTube, the process and background of the development of “Healthy Grown” are described, as well as improvements for the program. Contact Deana Knuteson ( for more details. Go here to watch the three short videos on YouTube

US: Unique potato marketing effort enjoying success

Image result for Fresh Solutions NetworkThe concept of produce growers banding together for marketing purposes but keeping their own identity is relatively unique, but it is working quite well for eight potato grower-shippers spread out across the United States and Canada. Fresh Network Solutions, LLC and its Side Delights® brand of fresh potatoes are moving into its second decade of existence with a full slate of eight partners and more than a couple of dozen SKUs including many unique value-added options ranging from potato kits to fresh-cuts to organics. “We’ve hit our stride with our membership,” said Kathleen Triou, Chief Executive Officer and President of the San Francisco-based marketing organization.  “Any more partners and we would be redundant in some areas; any less and we wouldn’t have national coverage.” Triou said the group represents a significant percentage of fresh U.S. potato supply in aggregate, which gives it sufficient volume to negotiate with the largest retailers in the county on year-round programs. Triou believes that Fresh Solutions Network has its collective finger on the pulse of the North American shopper. “We see continued opportunities in the convenience sector of the category,” she said. 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

Spore sampling project to alert growers of disease threat

A University of Idaho-led research team plans to start giving their state’s potato growers advanced warnings this season about the arrival of fungal pathogens, using a broad network of airborne spore samplers. Last summer, James Woodhall, the project’s lead and a University of Idaho (UI) assistant professor of plant pathology, and his colleagues evaluated samples collected by three spore samplers, based at their Parma, Kimberly and Aberdeen Extension centers, to prove the concept. This growing season, Woodhall said they’ll operate 14 samplers, stationed both at the UI facilities and near commercial potato fields spread from Parma through Tetonia. Woodhall intends to alert growers – initially via an email list and eventually by posting results on a special website – within a day of confirming the arrival of harmful potato pathogens including late blight, early blight, white mold, gray mold and brown spot. “It’s proven technology,” Woodhall said. “They’ve had success with this in Canada for late blight detection.” More

Factsheet: Best management practices to minimize the spread of PVY

Related imageThis factsheet is based on recent research done in Canada by Dr. Mathuresh Singh and his team in New Brunswick on PVY, which just concluded in March.  This research has been very successful in identifying which production practices are most associated with reducing the spread of PVY.  At the same time, PVY post-harvest test results in New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island have improved significantly in recent years, as these best practices are being more widely adopted. The factsheet was compiled by Ryan Barrett, Research & Agronomy Coordinator at the Prince Edward Island Potato Board, and published on the website. The document can be accessed here as a pdf file.

Calculator to help potato growers calculate amount of seed needed for planting

Image result for potato seed plantingExtension agronomist Andy Robinson, working in extension and research for potato production in North Dakota and Minnesota, recently uploaded a seed calculator to the website of the North Dakota State University website. A pertinent subject for the season is calculating planting rates. Robinson developed a table in xls format that can help you calculate the amount of potato seed needed to plant at different row widths, within-row spacing, and by seed piece size. Formulas are available in the tables to enable users to put their own numbers in if the preset numbers do not accurately represent planting on your farm. Go to this page to download the calculator

How do you make potato farming more efficient? A Canadian project aims to find out

Related imageA research project at the University of Prince Edward Island in Canada aimed at making potato farming more efficient, has received funding from the National Science and Engineering Research Council of Canada. The project is one part of an initiative involving the Prince Edward Island Potato Board, Cavendish Farms, growers, Agriculture Canada and the province focused on improving yields, profitability and sustainability. Aitazaz Farooque, the lead researcher and assistant professor at the UPEI school of engineering, said he is working on technology that would tell farmers which areas to put fertilizers and pesticides in their fields, reducing the costs and environmental impact of farming. “The idea here is to develop the sustainable technology so that we can apply crop inputs, which is fertilizers, pesticides, lime application, based on the need, not everywhere,” Farooque said. More

‘Recall Ready’ workshops for Washington State growers to be held in May

Related imageWashington growers will have two opportunities to be better prepared for the possibility of potato recalls. “The United Fresh Recall Ready Workshop is an exclusive education and training service that leverages the expertise of the food industry’s leading professions, in partnership between United Fresh Produce Association, and the legal and communications experts at OFW Law and Watson Green, among the food industry’s leading crisis counselling firms in Washington, D.C.” said the Washington State Potato Commission. The workshop is a one-day, hands-on training designed to help growers and their companies understand the fundamentals of a product recall. Growers will also get an in-depth look at how to effectively communicate to the industry, customers, consumers and the media with the proper communications plan. More

Lamb Weston raised its annual outlook for 2018 sales growth

Related imageLamb Weston Holdings, Inc. announced its third quarter 2018 results and updated its outlook for fiscal 2018 in a public press release issued last week. The company says net sales increased 12% to $863 million during third quarter 2018, while income from operations increased 17% to $169 million; and Adjusted Income from Operations increased 14% to $171 million. Net sales is expected to increase at upper end of mid-single digits range in fiscal 2018, up from a previous estimate of mid-single digits. “Our strong top- and bottom-line performance in the third quarter reflects the benefits of our capital expansion investments, our focus on delivering industry-leading customer service and our commitment to operational excellence,” said Tom Werner, President and CEO.  Continue reading