Gobbled up: German snack company bought UK-based Popchips

Image result for popchipsGerman food company Intersnack Group has snapped up UK-based potato crisps maker Popchips. The company  revealed that its British arm, KP Snacks, which makes KP nuts, Hula Hoops, Butterkist popcorn and Tyrrells crisps, had bought the company for an undisclosed sum. KP Snacks said it bought the Popchips brand in the UK and Europe but another company, Popchips Inc, would continue to operate separately in North America and other markets. Mark Thorpe, chief executive of KP Snacks, said: ‘Popchips is a fantastic addition… and we believe it significantly strengthens our proposition.’ It comes after KP Snacks’ recent takeover of Tyrrells crisps. (Source: thisismoney.co.uk)

Pesticide ban looming in the EU: Will diquat, thiram and pymetrozine be lost early 2019?

Image result for potato pesticide banAccording to a news item published by the National Farmers Union (NFU) in the UK, the pesticides diquat, thiram and pymetrozine look set to be lost as a vote on pesticides legislation in a Brussel’s Appeal Committee last week delivered a ‘no opinion’ position. Dr Chris Hartfield, NFU Senior Regulatory Affairs Adviser, said: “It is expected that within the next few weeks the EU will officially publish the regulations banning these actives. …these actives would be banned from use very early in 2019.” According to Dr Harfield, this decision will have significant implications for potato production in the UK. Diquat is much more effective than other available alternatives. Pymetrozine is an important insecticide which is used by most seed potato growers and in ware crops. With the ban on neonicotinoids, the loss of this insecticide will have a significant impact on resistance management in these crops. Read more

Practically British: Largest field-based potato event in the UK scheduled for August

Image result for potatoes in practicePotatoes in Practice is the largest field-based potato event in the UK. It will take place on Thursday 9 August 2018 at the James Hutton Institute’s Balruddery Farm, Fowlis, Scotland. The event brings together variety demonstrations, research and trade exhibits in one place making it an essential date in the potato industry calendar. In the field, you’ll find commercial breeders showcasing the latest varieties, agronomists demonstrating what’s new in crop protection and researchers discussing their most recent findings, all on hand to share their knowledge and give advice. Indoors, you’ll find a range of exhibitors from agricultural advisors and scientific researchers to processors and technology companies. There will also be a series of technical seminars open to all attendees complementing the research demonstrations. And of course, no field event would be complete without machinery – both moving and static. Principal organisers of the event are The James Hutton Institute, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), AHDB Potatoes , and Agrii. Go here to register free or book exhibit space 

Salty facts: American salty snacks market to reach $29 billion by 2022; dominated by Frito-Lay

Related imageHow Americans eat has evolved to match the frequently hurried, harried and hectic lifestyles of today’s consumers, says market research firm Packaged Facts. That shift has been a boon to convenient food options, including salty snacks such as potato chips, popcorn and pretzels. In its new report, “Salty Snacks: U.S. Market Trends and Opportunities,” Packaged Facts estimates retail dollar sales of the U.S. salty snacks industry at $24 billion in 2017, expected to exceed $29 billion in 2022. Despite competition from other snacks, such as chocolate and non-chocolate confections, cookies and crackers, the outlook for salty snacks remains bright. Future growth is expected to come from products that are as flavorful as possible but also as healthy and nutritious as possible. The report shows that PepsiCo controls about 60% of retail sales in the American salty snacks market through its Frito-Lay division. The Shelby Report. Also read report by Potato Business

The mustard cure: Potato growers fight potato pests and boost yields with mustard crop

Related imagePotato growers in the Canadian province of Prince Edward Island (PEI) say they’ve planted more mustard than ever in 2018. They’re finding the bright yellow crop does more than fight wireworms — it also gives them a nice bump in potato yields in fields where mustard was planted first. “We have a bit of a problem with wireworm out in this area, as do a lot of areas, and this seems to be giving us some help with that,” said potato grower Hans Wilting. “It’s also giving some good results on some other diseases too, soil-borne diseases. And as a rotational crop, it’s adding a lot to the soil.” The Prince Edward Island Potato Board estimates wireworm costs the potato industry about $10 million a year in measures to control it and damage to crops. “It’s a good thing. It’s not a chemical, it’s something natural that you can put in the soil and it gives you a bump in yield and controls pests that you otherwise have to fight against with chemicals.” Read more

‘When it comes to soil testing, we’ve only scratched the surface’

soil testingRemi Schmaltz is CEO of Decisive Farming, a Canadian software program for farms offering precision agronomics, data management, crop marketing, and telematics services. In a recent article published on Agfunder.com, Schmaltz writes about soil analysis, where it started, and how it’s changing. “Soil analysis know-how has grown by leaps and bounds,” he writes. “Today, there are all kinds of automated soil sampling systems and some companies have developed their own proprietary sampling systems that is designed to quickly collect high-quality samples using GPS technology and provide precise and efficient measurements. In fact, one Dutch-based manufacturer SoilCares has even created a hand-held device that they claim can analyze soil samples on the spot and wirelessly transmit the data anywhere in the world.”  Continue reading

Smart tech: Portable new system designed to cut sprayer loading times and mistakes by automating chemical blending

Related imageFast loading times are critical for maximizing sprayer efficiency, but mistakes are also more likely to happen when loading in a hurry. An Iowa-based company, Praxidyn, has designed a portable, modular system to shorten the time it takes to blend chemicals and refill the sprayer, while also reducing the chances of errors by automating the process and recording what’s going into the tank. As CEO and owner Doug Applegate explains, the MixMate system measures volume by weight or flow, automatically recognizing when a jug is empty and reconciling actual volumes, accounting for residues left in a container (or a sloppy operator!) He says the jug system can drain, weigh, rinse, record and reconcile the data from a jug in about 12 seconds. “It’s pretty common to load a 1,200 gallon sprayer in about five minutes,” he says. The Android-based system records everything that goes through the MixMate and synchronizes it via Praxidyn’s Intersect cloud service, making it accessible from the office. Read more

Canada: Newtec potato grader simultaneously sorts by quality, size and shape

Celox-P-UHDDavid Main, biologist at Agriculture and Agri-food Canada on Prince Edward Island, is evaluating a new potato grader for potatoes this year. The machine is a Celox-P-UHD from Newtec. Main says a number of potato growers on Prince Edward Island are using Newtec’s Celox sorting machines now. The grader is designed to sort potatoes by size, shape and quality in a single-stage process. It sorts washed potatoes directly, eliminating the need for pre-grading and minimising the need for manual labor, whilst ensuring consistent quality and high throughput. Up to 13 categories of products can be sorted out simultaneously. Sorting criteria for these categories are instantly customisable according to the current needs. Premium product selections can effortlessly be sorted out of bulk produce.  Continue reading

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

Potato prices in Ireland ‘set to soar’ as yields face up to 50% drop

Potato prices ‘set to soar’ – as yields face up to 50% dropThe price of potatoes “will be significantly higher this year” according to the Country Crest co-founder, Michael Hoey. Speaking to AgriLand, Hoey explained that as a result of the difficult year  – which has led to the potato crop performing poorly – he believes “potatoes will go over the €500/box mark”. According to the IFA’s (Irish Farmers’ Association’s) Domestic Potato Market Report from Tuesday, July 10, a box of Rooster potatoes is currently costing €260/box on average. Although yields will be down drastically on last year, Hoey outlined: “High prices are not ideal because when the price of potatoes is high the customer just goes and buys something else. You get a big turning-off effect.” Philip Meade jnr, who is the commercial director for potatoes at Meade Potato Company, explained that two weeks of rain would be needed to secure the crops’ full water demand. Meade says “conditions like this have not been seen since 1976”. 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 

New initiative looks at ways to develop ‘smart farms’ in Britain

Leeds University has launched its 'smart farms' initiative to encourage farmers to think modernA new initiative will work closely with the farming industry and government to explore ways to develop ‘smart farms’ in the UK. Farmers and agri-businesses are facing more challenges, including political climate changes, fluctuating trading patterns and the need to increase efficiency and productivity. The Smart Agri-Systems initiative spearheaded by the University of Leeds seeks to give rural businesses a competitive advantage and to increase value. The aim of the initiative is to work with farms and businesses to develop solutions, from advanced monitoring technology to big data analytics. Examples of smart farming to be looked at include the incorporation of sensors on the farm – either fixed, or on drones and robotic crawlers. These can monitor soil temperature and humidity, map crop growth and density, assess ground water composition, and track the weather, with data analysed to project crop performance. Read more

CIP study: Poor quality seed, bacterial wilt holding back higher potato yields in Africa

Image result for POTATO PRODUCTION IN AFRICA CAN BE INCREASED BY 140%: FIND OUT HOWPotato, the third most important food crop after rice and wheat, is globally consumed by over a billion people. According to FAO statistics, potato production in Africa tripled from 1994 through 2011, from 8 to 24 million metric tons, but largely due to the increase of cropping area. Half of this production comes from sub-Saharan Africa where a recent study carried out by the International Potato Center (CIP) and its partners from 2013 to 2016 has shown that this level of production could be increased by 140% if identified causes of yield gap were addressed. In this study, the research yield gap is defined as the difference between the research yield and the potential yield, whereas the absolute yield gap is derived from the difference between the average farmer’s yield and the potential yield. Modeling work conducted by CIP and its partners in ten SSA countries showed that farmers’ yield gap (24 t/ha) exceeds the current farmers’ yield (8 t/ha). A six month online survey outlined twelve most important yield gap challenges out of an initial list of thirty. Poor quality seed was the top-ranked yield gap cause identified by survey respondents, followed by bacterial wilt. Read more on the CIP website. The full Report can be downloaded as a pdf file

Solar Farms by Agri-Stor provide instant saving to growers

Hindsight has a way of making even the most brilliant of ideas seem obvious and elementary. It’s easy to wonder, “Why didn’t somebody think of this years ago?” In 2016, the folks at Agri-Stor Companies called a meeting to address what was, at the time, a depressed potato market. The Twin Falls, Idaho-based company has developed and built potato storages for over 50 years. There is a prevailing belief at Agri-Stor that they have a responsibility to help growers succeed in whatever ways they can. So in that stressful economic environment for the region’s potato industry, the Agri-Stor folks were looking for solutions just as earnestly as growers were. Jesse Vierstra is a forward-thinking kind of guy. Though he was still a fairly new hire at Agri-Stor at the time, he spoke up and voiced a big idea in that meeting: “Why don’t we get into solar?”  Continue reading

Syngenta develops RNA-based biocontrols for crop improvement

Image result for colorado potato beetleSyngenta is developing a new line of biocontrols based on RNA. The biocontrol can be designed to be very selective so that it only affects the target pest(s). So when it is sprayed onto the plant the biocontrol targets a crop pest such as the Colorado Potato Beetle, which can destroy entire crops; our initial data indicate that beneficial insects and even closely related species are not harmed. The RNA-based biocontrol is then broken down in the environment and does not affect the plant. Syngenta is committed to being transparent in how they are developed and to periodically make its data available. Syngenta is the first agrochemical company to share RNA-based biocontrols research as open data in order to engage in a new type of dialogue with scientists and researchers. Syngenta partners with the Open Data Institute to publish their data to the best practice standards in the industry. This data can be used by anyone for research and analysis. Watch how the biocontrol works on Colorado potato beetle. Read more