Texas A&M potato breeding trials offer reds to russets, babies to bakers

Image result for Texas A&M potato breeding trials offer reds to russets, babies to bakersWhen Kelly Kuball walked the Texas A&M Potato Breeding and Variety Development Program variety display trials near Springlake recently, he was a long way from his specialty potato company in Arvin, California. Kuball said the Texas A&M potato breeding materials have the potential to provide new products for his Tasteful Selections clientele. He is looking for potatoes with unique characteristics, such as shape, color, size – “anything that might improve what we already grow and put in our bag for our customers.” Tasteful Selections concentrates mainly on baby potatoes, a rapidly growing market, he said. He has been growing and evaluating Texas A&M potatoes for seven years in California and at other Tasteful Selections growing regions on the West Coast. Dr. Isabel Vales, Texas A&M AgriLife Research potato breeder in College Station, said the breeding program’s main goal is to develop new potato varieties. She now leads the breeding program, long run by Dr. Creighton Miller. Read more

HZPC: Growing demand for organic potatoes encourages breeding

Image result for Growing demand for organic potatoes encourages breedingOrganic potatoes are on the rise, especially now that the large supermarkets have embraced the product. But what to do against the dreaded disease Phytophthora‘The market share of organic products is growing rapidly. In the Dutch supermarkets, turnover is increasing by 10 percent annually, but the potato is lagging behind’, says Edith Lammerts van Bueren, professor of organic plant breeding. She has been working on the improvement of organic vegetable and potato cultivation for decades. Potato fields cannot do without crop protection. Traditional growers spray against Phytophthora, or late blight, at least once a week. According to the professor, at least 20% of the organic farmers stopped growing potato between 2000 and 2007. ‘They could no longer cope with the intense waves of this disease.’ There are now a handful of varieties available that are resistant to late blight. However, the ‘technical’ restriction of these varieties is that they contain only one resistance gene. Breeder Peter Vos of HZPC is concerned. Read more 

Making good better: British scientists boost popular potato variety’s blight resistance

Related imageProfessor Jonathan Jones from The Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, England is investigating ways that Maris Piper potatoes can be genetically modified to develop late blight resistance. According to Professor Jones, genetic modification has real potential to offer growers agronomic benefits, particularly in terms of developing late blight resistance. Against a background of aggressive potato late blight strains, combined with increasing losses of chemical plant protection tools, crops carrying genes that confer increased disease resistance would help to take the pressure off growers. Professor Jones is leading a team which has developed a new, improved Maris Piper potato with a stack of three genes that confer resistance to late blight. These lines successfully underwent field trials in the United Kingdom in 2017 and are on track to help fight the new blight strain 37_A2, which has established itself in Northern Europe over the last few years. Read the full article by Heather Briggs on p15 in the latest issue of Potatoes Australia.

Popular potato variety in Uganda getting a GMO makeover

Related imageVictoria is a popular local potato variety in Uganda. Farmers love it because it is high yielding. However, Victoria is also extremely susceptible to potato late blight disease. With each growing season, these farmers face a threat of 60 to 100 percent yield losses due to Late Blight. Climate related risks have worsened the situation leading to increasingly food insecure households. However, all is not lost. Researchers from the National Agricultural Research Organization (NARO) in Uganda, working closely with the International Potato Center (CIP), are about to complete multi-location field trials and laboratory analyses of an improved transgenic Victoria potato. These trials are part of a comprehensive risk assessment of the improved potato, to get it approved by Uganda’s National Biosafety Committee. Field trials of the improved Victoria variety have shown complete resistance to late blight disease without use of fungicides. Read more

How the Irish peel money off potatoes

Employees sort tomatoes at Keogh’s Crisps, located on the outskirts of Dublin, Ireland.Jamie Rankin is one of the largest growers in Ireland. Recently, a Kenyan delegation had visited him to learn how the Irish grow their potatoes, with farmers harvesting up to 50 tonnes per hectare. To grow seeds, he buys tissue-culture seedlings from Tops. Gerry Doherty, a manager at Tops, says with the advancement of science, testing of seed tubers to ensure freedom from especially viral diseases has become an integral part of their certification scheme. Rankin’s potatoes and those from other farmers across the country have a ready market at several factories, including Keogh’s Crisps a potato processor based in North Dublin. IPM Potato Group is working on bringing the Irish potato technology to Kenya. Read more

Spud debate: How diverse are the genes of the potato?

Related imageThe potato is a crop vital to feeding the teeming human species worldwide. When colonialism first disseminated the spud widely from its South American beginnings, it became a staple crop of a booming global population of billions. When it failed, like with fungal blight of the mid-19thcentury in Northern Europe and Ireland, millions died or were displaced. The 21st century implications are clear: as billions more people are going to need sustenance, the rich source of a wide swath of vitamins and minerals is likely to be as important as ever. At the same time, some critics have pointed out that the dangers of mono-cultures proven by privations of the past have yet to be learned by societies great and small. All this is to say that plant biologists have a tuber controversy on their hands as deep as the DNA of the spud itself. The latest scientific debate has played out in the Proceedings in the National Academy of Sciences. Read more

 

Winds of change: Is America ready for a new potato?

Related imageFrom the Russet to the red and yellow, to specialty potato varieties, the US is a large producer and consumer of potatoes. In recent years, more people are seeking out new varieties and there is an increasing focus on flavor. One US-based company has been tasked with distributing one of the newest varieties of potatoes – the Huckleberry Gold. Grown in Idaho, Washington and Oregon, the Huckleberry Gold is a cross breed of European and American varieties. “The Huckleberry Gold is a purple-skinned, yellow-flesh potato that has been cultivated in the Northwest by our grower partner,” said Harris Cutler of Race-West, the company chosen to distribute the variety. “Every year they try out different varieties and last August, they began harvesting the Huckleberry Gold. The company grow for flavor and this year they are working on an all-purple potato.” “The parentage of the Huckleberry is fascinating,” he added.  Continue reading

Drone tech in practice: Belgian service provider employs drones to improve assessment of seed varieties

Image result for IMAGE ANALYTICS FOR OBJECTIVE PLANT VARIETY ASSESSMENTAs Belgium’s biggest service provider for agriculture and horticulture, AVEVE is continuously looking for innovative solutions. In plant breeding, specialists are looking to improve the objective quality assessment of new crop seed varieties. With mapEO, a new image processing solution for drone based phenotyping, AVEVE specialists can scale up their seed and agronomy expertise and offer the best possible varieties for every farmer. In one of their experimental fields in Belgium AVEVE grows 350 different plant varieties on 2,100 trial plots. With mapEO they use drone data to objectively monitor and evaluate the growth, health and evolution of new seed varieties. Instead of walking through all the experimental fields to check the plant characteristics, mapEO allows them to conduct their own drone flights or order a mapEO certified pilot to collect necessary data at set times using various cameras. As a result, they have an archive of images of all test plots. AVEVE  is active in Belgium, The Netherlands, France and Germany. Read more

Low-carb gold: ‘Lotatoes Potatoes’ campaign the winner of PMA Australia-New Zealand award

Related imageProduce Plus and PMA Australia-New Zealand are pleased to announce the T&G Global Marketing Team as the winner of the Marketer of the Year Award 2018 for the ‘Lotatoes Potatoes’ campaign. The New Zealand-headquartered company was presented with Australasia’s premier marketing award for the fresh fruit, vegetable and floral industries at the Hort Connections conference and trade show in Brisbane. The presentation took place during the event’s Gala Dinner on Wednesday, 20 June. The Lotatoes Potatoes campaign centred around the launch of a new low-carb and low-calorie potato variety. Having observed a consumer trend moving away from high-carbohydrate options among health-conscious consumers in New Zealand, T&G Global specifically sought the low-carb potato variety from its breeding partners. Extensive testing against two of New Zealand’s most common varieties (Rua and Agria) found Lotatoes to be a unique 40 per cent lower carbohydrate product that met the functional and health needs of its target audience. Read more

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

‘Pretty, unique and tasty’: In northern Maine, a new spud rises

The University of Maine last month announced the release of the Pinto Gold, a new variety of gourmet potato developed by the school's potato breeding program.One thing you should know about Dr. Gregory Porter — the man behind the University of Maine’s well-regarded potato-breeding program — is that he is not just a researcher of potatoes, he is also a fan. “Oh, I love ’em,” Porter said last week, during a break from working the 35 acres of potato fields he oversees at the Aroostook Research Farm in Presque Isle, Maine. “I eat ’em all the time. Never get sick of ’em. I like ’em baked, like ’em roasted, like ’em scalloped…” He likes ’em so much, in fact, that — in a development that recently drew national notice — he went ahead and created a brand new one. Dubbed the Pinto Gold for its yellow flesh and distinctive patchy skin pattern, the gourmet specialty potato introduced last month by the university is said to be particularly good for roasting but versatile enough to be boiled, baked, pan-fried, or chopped up and tossed atop a salad. “Pretty, unique, and the tastiest roasting potatoes you could ever have,” is how Porter described them. 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

Little golden nugget: Univ of Maine releases new gourmet potato variety

Sporting a unique and striking skin pattern, the newly released Pinto Gold potato has been in development for twelve years. Out of 50,000 individual varieties tested at Univ of Maine’s Aroostook Research Farm, the Pinto Gold was selected as the most promising. The potato isn’t destined for large scale chip or french fry manufacturing, but for local gardeners, restaurants, and home cooking. Gregory Porter, Professor of Agronomy at the University of Maine, says: “This is unusual material and the crosses were really done for that specialty market, and that’s why it has the striking skin patterns. It has very small tubers and wouldn’t be the type of variety that would be used by everybody in the potato industry. But it works really well for that specialty market, and because of the small tubers, it’s very easy to put into a roasted product to get a lot of that nice skin. You just quarter the little potatoes and get a nice size potato for roasting.” The Pinto Gold is described as having a smooth, creamy texture when cooked. Watch video

Blight research: GM potato, IPM can reduce environmental impact of potato production by over 95%

Researchers with Teagasc in Ireland have concluded their field study which investigated both the environmental and agronomic impact of a GM potato variety genetically engineered to resist late blight disease, caused by Phytophthora infestans. Potato late blight can rapidly destroy potato crops with growers commonly having to resort to spraying their crops with fungicides on a near weekly basis. Teagasc research indicates that combining a cisgenic blight resistant potato with advanced Integrated management systems can reduce the environmental impact of potato production by over 95%. As part of the EU funded ‘AMIGA’ project and in collaboration with Wageningen University, Teagasc looked at issues such as the efficacy of disease control and the resulting environmental impact during cultivation of a susceptible potato variety (Désirée) and two different resistant potato varieties: Sarpo Mira, developed through conventional breeding, and a resistant version of the Désirée which received a resistance gene from a wild potato through cisgenesis. Read more

Canadian researchers exploring an environmentally friendly solution to potato early dying complex

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada researchers in Fredericton are exploring environmentally friendly solutions to manage Potato Early Dying complex (PED), a disease that is limiting yields in many potato fields in eastern Canada. PED is a disease complex caused by a combination of a fungal disease (Verticillium wilt) and root-lesion nematodes. With few available treatments, a process called biofumigation is being used by some growers to manage PED.  The process involves tilling mustard plants into the soil at a specific stage of growth with enough heat and moisture in the ground to induce a chemical breakdown of the plant material. “As the mustard decomposes, it releases a chemical that reduces Verticillium wilt pathogens without adverse effects on the environment,” explains Dr. Dahu Chen, AAFC plant pathologist at the Fredericton Research and Development Centre.  Continue reading