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

Survival test: Gardeners in Newfoundland enlisted to put Chilean potato varieties through the hoops

Assistant manager Jackson McLean holds four red smile potato seeds in E.W. Gaze Seeds Co. in downtown St. John’s. The store is giving away red smile potato seeds to its customers to test.E.W. Gaze Seeds Co. in St Johns Newfoundland and Phytocultures Ltd. based in Prince Edward Island are working together to bring new types of potatoes to Newfoundland and Labrador from Chile in South America. E.W. Gaze Seeds Co. specializes in selling “high-quality vegetable and flower seeds,” according to the company’s website. Recently the store started giving away free samples of Chilean potato varieties (supplied by Phytocultures) to local gardeners who will plant the potatoes and see if they will grow well enough in the rather harsh local conditions. The sample potato seeds soon ran out due to eager demand. The new type of potatoes were developed by plant propagation specialist Don Northcott, who founded Phytocultures in 1986.  Continue reading

‘Good potential market’: British seed potato growers look to Cuba to export

Britain is looked on favourably by the Cuban Government due to its high status and recognitionBritish seed potato producers are considering Cuba as an export destination after recent meetings with government officials in the country. While British producers are technically able to export to Cuba they have not been able to take advantage of this market due to a lack of awareness on how to get products into the country. However, fresh discussions have led to the development of a clear process for exporting product into Cuba. Presently, Cuba currently imports 17,000 tonnes of seed mainly from the Netherlands and France. Canada used to be a supplier but in recent years European sources have been preferred. According to Rob Burns, AHDB Heads of Crops Export, Britain is looked on favourably by the Cuban Government due to a high health status. If growers are interested in nominating crops for Cuban exports they are urged to compile a list to send to SASA by the end of June, and SASA will work with Cuba’s export company Alimport to identify Cuban companies looking for British seed. Read more

Peru’s native potato varieties offer solution to malnourishment and anemia, researchers say

Image result for native peruvian potatoLargely unknown outside of the Andes, the region’s many multi-colored native potato species may aid in preventing malnourishment and cancer, Peruvian researchers told EFE on Wednesday. At their facility in Zurite, in the Andean region of Cuzco, scientists with Peru’s National Institute for Agrarian Innovation (INIA) are doing research on the myriad native potato varieties growing on mountainside terraces built by ancient Peruvian civilizations some 3,400 meters (11,200 feet) above sea level. Their goal is to study the characteristics and benefits of each of the many potato varieties cultivated by the ancient Incas and classify them, as well as to develop new varieties that can be grown on a larger scale. INIA has obtained as many as 26 new potato varieties that possess the characteristics of their native counterparts, including resilience to climate change – due to their high phenol content – and a more appealing shape and size, as well as their “high amounts of calories and proteins.”  Continue reading

Elevated: How potatoes went from mountaintops to the moon

Chuños, naturally freeze-dried potatoesThe process of freeze drying is easily associated with the space age, thanks to its use in making astronaut food, but it’s older than you might think. The first known use of it dates back to the Incas, who were able to naturally freeze dry their food on mountaintops thanks to cold temperatures and thin air. Potatoes were stomped daily to get the moisture out, and sublimation took care of the rest, making for lighter, more lasting food called chuños (which is still made today). This process allowed Incas to store up food for droughts, and Spaniards to try “fresh” potatoes in Europe. Though freeze drying isn’t as widely used today, NASA has managed to take the process to greater heights than even the Incas by using the technique for astronaut food. That’s because freeze-drying preserves the structure of food, as well as its vitamins and minerals. It may not be exactly the same as a fresh potato, but as anyone who’s sampled astronaut ice cream can attest to, it still tastes pretty good. Read more

Noteworthy: Potatoes the source of innovation boom in Peru

According to the executive director of Cite Papa and other Andean Crops, Celfia Obregon Ramirez, potatoes have stopped being just an agricultural crop and have become a great source of innovation in Peru – which has the greatest diversity of potatoes in the world and, thus, infinite possibilities to innovate. Peruvian exquisite colored chips continue to surprise the world because they are very exotic, she added, but young Peruvian entrepreneurs have already created other products that may be attractive for the international market, such as the 14 Inkas potato vodka, the first of its kind made with native potatoes. CITE Papa, in alliance with the University of Wisconsin – Madison (USA), obtained the formula to produce beer from potatoes and it is currently looking for a local manufacturer that wants to develop the product commercially, she stated. (Source: FreshPlaza)

Come eat me: Some potato varieties yield more when grazed by pests

When some Colombian potato varieties are lightly grazed by a pest, the plants respond by growing larger tubers, at times doubling their yields. Although many types of plants can repair pest damage while maintaining productivity, it’s rare to find species that actually overcompensate and increase productivity. Cornell and the Universidad Nacional de Colombia researchers first discovered this effect in a commercial Colombian potato in 2010. Now, a new study by the research group investigates whether certain conditions might allow farmers to exploit this response to reduce insecticides and increase productivity. “The option of increasing productivity based on the compensatory plant response could open the door to a decrease in insecticide use. It could be a sustainable way to produce food based on a plant’s natural response to herbivory,” said Katja Poveda, assistant professor of entomology and the paper’s lead author.  Continue reading

World Potato Congress: Potato experts from around the world gather in Peru

More than 800 potato scientists, industry representatives, government officials and other interested parties from 50 countries have gathered in the Andean city of Cusco, Peru for the 10th World Potato Congress (WPC) and the 28th Congress of the Latin American Potato Association (ALAP), held from May 27 to 31. The event, which included ample participation by scientists from the International Potato Center (CIP), has raised the potato’s profile in Peru and beyond by highlighting the crop’s rich biodiversity and its potential for reducing hunger, malnutrition and poverty. The WPC is the most important international event for potato science and business, held in a different country every three years. Researchers and business representatives participating in WPC 2018 and the ALAP Congress have had the opportunity to participate in technical sessions on an array of innovations that include potato variety development and biotechnology, improved pest and disease management, crop management and the importance of potato biodiversity for breeding and nutrition. Read further

Trade breakthrough: US seed and fresh potatoes can now be exported to Guatemala

U.S. fresh and seed potatoes from all U.S. states are now permitted entry into Guatemala, a welcome expansion of market access from only one permitted state four years ago. On May 14, 2018, the USDA confirmed simplified phytosanitary certificate requirements that eliminate previous state-by-state limitations. Potatoes USA worked closely with the USDA to fully open Guatemala to U.S. table-, chip- and seed-stock potatoes. The small Central American country is a target market for Potatoes USA promotion programs. Potatoes USA hosted a Guatemalan plant health official in 2017 to attend the International Seed Symposium. In 2017, Guatemala imported over 24,000 metric tons of U.S. potatoes and potato products, valued at $27.5 million, making it the U.S. potato industry’s 13th-largest market globally. (Source: Potatogrower)

On the International Day for Biological Diversity, consider the beauty of the Potato

Today is the United Nation's International Day for Biological Diversity, a day to highlight the importance of the shared global heritage of food crops, the people who grow them, and working together to keep agriculture alive for the generations to come.In an article published today on Foodtank.com, Mercedes Aráoz, a Peruvian economist and currently the First Vice-president of the Republic of Peru, writes: “The potato is a gift from Peru to the world, and we will always be its stewards. …On the United Nation’s International Day for Biological Diversity, I have potatoes on my mind. The fantastic variety of colors, shapes, and flavors that can be found among Andean potatoes is as beautiful to me as any other diversity in the plant kingdom. And beyond beauty, this diversity is also crucially important to more than a billion people who rely on potatoes as a major part of their diet. It is also a fundamental resource for farmers, in Peru and so many other countries, who grow potatoes for a living. As an economist, I am concerned when I see such an essential resource being under-valued. Potato breeders need the full diversity of this ancient crop to prepare the potato for a changing climate and shifting disease threats. Too much of that diversity has been lost over time, and more is in danger…” Full article

Peru: Biodegradable bags that can also be used as food

Concern for the environment can sharpen inventiveness, especially when people have some scientific knowledge. Around the same time that the Ministry of Environment announced its intention to gradually ban the use of plastic bags, information has emerged that researchers are working to make biodegradable bags based on potato starch. According to Celfia Obregon, president of the Center for Technological Innovation (CITE) for Potatoes and other Andean Crops, the peculiarity of this bags is that, in addition to having a much smaller impact on the environment, they can be used as a food input. “We have potatoes that have a high starch content and we are working with the University of Wisconsin, from the United States, to take advantage of the southern native potatoes in Puno to make bags, containers, and biodegradable cups from potato starch,” she said. Once they’re used, “the bags can be disposed of as they will decompose quickly, but they can also be used as an ingredient in a soup, that is, you can feed from them,” she added. More

Argentina: Scientists develop non-browning potatoes using CRISPR gene editing

non browning potato crispr 382377Researchers of the INTA [Instituto Nacional de Tecnología Agropecuaria], Balcarce, have edited the genome that causes enzymatic browning in potatoes, alters the nutritional properties and quality of the tubers. “We verified that we are capable of generating, within a potato cell, a gene editing machinery that specifically targets the chosen gene and changes its genetic sequence,” explained Sergio Feingold, director of the INTA’s Agrobiotechnology Laboratory. “The technique used was gene editing.” The technology used is also known as “gene scissors” or CRISPR/Cas9. When applying this technique, the team led by Feingold focused on a polyphenol oxidase gene, whose enzyme causes browning in tubers when they are cut and exposed to air. More

The humble potato is exalted in the mountains of Peru

Native to the Andes in Peru and northwest Bolivia, potatoes were domesticated more than 10,000 years ago. And yet new varieties are being discovered all the time. Potato banks — like the one in the Pisac region of the Andes that stores seeds in a climate-controlled vault for 1,300 varieties of potatoes — are always searching for new varieties, as are dozens of creative Peruvian chefs on the lookout for wild and unusual indigenous ingredients. Freeze-drying the potato for chuño was just one method used to increase its life after harvest. Running or walking was the chief mode of transportation for most ancient Andean peoples (certainly the Incas); they could easily carry dried potatoes with them and make a quick stew with local herbs, chiles and water from a mountain stream whenever hunger called. Dried potatoes in Peru come in many forms. They can look like pebbles — hard and smooth, in white or purple. They can look like large gravel, with different colors. But they can also be soft, tasting and smelling as funky as fermented bean curd or ripe cheese. Each has a different flavor and texture. More

Peru: Missed opportunities for native potatoes

Image result for Peru: Missed opportunities for native potatoesTruth is that there are many Peruvian products with a huge potential that are being wasted due to a lack of organization. Agroindustrial engineer Ronald Rimari Barzola, a consultant in frozen agricultural exports who has a special interest in the development of the Peruvian native potato industry, recently spoke about such an opportunity. Some weeks ago, during a conference about agricultural development, he recalled that there was a processing plant for native potatoes in the district of Chilca that had managed to export more than half a million dollars of native potatoes between 2015 and 2016. At the beginning of this year, he said, the processing plant had a great opportunity, which unfortunately they had to let go. Rimari considers that, if producers worked together, there could be the possibility of carrying out a commercial project of this magnitude. More

Peruvian potato producers: ‘We have no money to buy seed, to plant potatoes, or to buy fertilizer’

Related imagePotato producers in Peru are threatening to go on an indefinite strike starting April 23 because the government has not complied with the agreements reached at the beginning of February. “We want to be heard [by the government] before going on strike. We are here (in Congress) to ask the new Minister of Agriculture to meet with us so that we can solve this problem,” said Victor Vega Supo, the head of the National Agrarian Coordinators, during a press conference held by the National Convention of Peruvian Agriculture in Congress. “We have no money to buy seeds, to plant potatoes, or to buy fertilizers. We are undercapitalized and have no support. How are we going to guarantee people food if we have no money to produce it?” 90% of potato producers have run out of working capital, he said. (Source: FreshPlaza)