Potato virus found for first time in New Zealand

Image result for potato mop-top virusA damaging potato crop virus could have a serious impact on the potato industry if not contained, an expert says. The potato mop-top virus (PMTV) has been discovered in New Zealand for the first time on two farms in Canterbury on the South Island. The virus causes a defect in the potato that means it can’t be processed for potato chips and oven fries, but does not pose a health risk. Affected potatoes can display symptoms including distortions to the skin, deep cracking, and rust-coloured arcs, streaks or flecks in the tuber flesh. Potatoes New Zealand chief executive Chris Claridge said they were investigating to see where the virus had come from and if it had spread to any other potato crops in the country. “It is so important for us to isolate and contain the virus and, if possible, eradicate it,” he said. Read more

Late blight expert: ‘How do you disarm Phytophthora?’

Plant breeders regularly claim to have developed a new potato variety that is resistant to the harmful micro-organism Phytophthora infestans (see inset). By cross-breeding they have introduced a resistance gene that they think will keep the little fungus-like pathogen out. But Francine Govers, professor in Phytopathology and a leading expert on Phytophthora, never makes these kinds of claims. She knows that the stubborn pathogen cannot be stopped with a single resistance gene and will get around this new defence barrier sooner or later. So, Wageningen University and Research (WUR) in the Netherlands is looking for heavier weaponry with which to protect potatoes from Phytophthora infection. Firstly, Govers and colleagues at the Laboratory for Plant Breeding are looking into how they can bolster the potato’s defences using new techniques. Secondly, they are looking at how they can deactivate Phytophthora’s weapons, the so-called effectors. Read more

Ireland’s Meade family ‘gleaning’ up to keep sustainability at the core

Meade Potato Company in Ireland won on the double at the recent Food and Drink Business Awards, taking home the ‘Fresh Produce Company of the Year’ and ‘Sustainable Factory of the Year’ awards. The family firm’s Robert Devlin and Eleanor Meade rushed to the awards ceremony on Wednesday evening, September 5, after a busy afternoon spent ‘gleaning’, a joint initiative with FoodCloud community foodbank and Lidl Ireland corporate social responsibility (CSR) volunteers. ‘Gleaning’ is the collecting of produce that has been left behind in the field after the harvesting has been done, according to Jeni Meade, marketing communications manager at Meade Potato Company. It is a word that crops up in the bible in the context of asking that the ‘gleanings’ of a field be given to the needy.  “‘Gleaning’ is currently very popular in the US and UK but has yet to become that widespread in Ireland,” she says. Read more

Idaho’s 2017/18 fresh potato prices raise national average

packerSales of table stock potatoes in the 2017-18 season totaled 107 million cwt., a 6% drop from the previous year, but the national average price-per-cwt. rose $1.13, to $11.73, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The USDA released its annual summary of the previous season on Sept. 13. Overall production for the season, including frozen and dehydrated products, on 1.02 million acres was 442 million cwt., compared to 1.09 million acres and 441 million cwt. in the 2016-17 season. While the fall harvest of all potatoes, including those for processors, yielded 401 million cwt., a 1% drop from the previous fall, spring potato production was 19.8 million cwt., 30% more than the previous year, and summer production was 21.7 million cwt., an 11% increase from year to year. The Packer report

British chips to become much shorter

Image result for british fish and chipsBritons will be served up shorter chips this year as potato farmers across Europe struggle to cope with the worst summer drought for decades. Britain eats 1.75 million tonnes of frozen chips every year and is, alongside the US, the world’s largest importer of the product. Almost all frozen fry imports to Britain, about 750,000 tonnes, come from the Netherlands and Belgium. The hot weather and lack of rain has hit European crop yields, resulting in a drop of about 20% in Northern Europe, and made the potatoes, usually the size of a small brick, smaller. That will mean smaller, shorter chips, potato experts in Britain and Belgium have warned. “This was the hottest British summer since 1976, which any potato person will tell you was an almost mythical year,” said Cedric Porter, editor of World Potato Markets, “it is still talked about in potato circles. The chips are down,” he said, “You can expect smaller chips in Britain and in Europe.” Read more

Late blight update issued for the UK

Image result for fight against blight ahdbAccording to Dr James Cooke at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland, having experienced one of the driest seasons since the Fight Against Blight began – clearly the weather has had a major impact. “After some early appearances on discard piles in Kent in mid-April, we have received very few recorded outbreaks compared to previous years. This has allowed us the time to genotype the samples as they arrived in the lab, and we now have genotype data for 24 positive outbreaks.” The data indicates a similar pattern to last year with the new lineages 37_A2 and 36_A2 in Kent and, more recently, in Shropshire. There have been no findings of these genotypes beyond their 2017 range but the hot, dry weather will have been a major factor in limiting pathogen movement. There are only two confirmed outbreaks from Lincolnshire, to date, so there remains a possibility that it is present but not yet sampled. Read full update on the AHDB Potatoes website

Managing moisture was key for Red River Valley potato growers

Black Gold Farms will be harvesting in the fields of the Red River Valley and said it is anxious to begin shipping red and yellow potatoes to their customers. Harvest will run for about four weeks with much of the crop stored, packed and shipped out of Black Gold Farm’s packing facility in East Grand Forks, MN through the spring of 2019. Keith Groven, Black Gold Farms Fresh Sales Manager has seen a lot of variables the last few years specifically due to moisture. “We made a decision a few years ago to really look at what we can control – and based on our history in the Valley, we know moisture control is critical to success. Selecting irrigated ground has been well worth it, and this year was absolutely a prime example with the dry growing season that we had,” Groven explains. “The early quality samples that we’re seeing look fantastic, and we’re ready to get them on the road.” Read more

Heat, smoke not expected to diminish Oregon potato harvest

Image result for Heat, smoke not expected to diminish Oregon potato harvestMonths of intense heat and smoky skies are not expected to diminish Oregon’s potato crop, with farmers across the state predicting average to above-average yields heading into the bulk of harvest. Bill Brewer, CEO of the Oregon Potato Commission, said the overall impact of wildfire smoke is yet to be determined in spuds, but he has not heard of any major setbacks or problems with quality. Hot weather can be hard on certain potato varieties, such as Russet Burbank; the gold standard for french fries; though in general, Brewer said he anticipates a roughly average harvest statewide and good quality potatoes. Potatoes ranked as the seventh-most valuable agricultural commodity in the state in 2017, raking in $176.9 million. Dan Chin, who runs Chin Family Farms Organic outside Merrill in the Klamath Basin, said they were socked in by smoke from wildfires raging in southern Oregon and northern California for a solid month and a half. Read more

Idaho’s Norkotah crop looks good, Burbank crop may be lighter

yyyThe 2018 Idaho potato harvest got under way with Russet Norkotahs in early August, and by the first week in September, most growers in the state had started digging Norkotahs. While there is always variation from one field to another, growers were generally reporting good volumes with a good size structure and very good quality. Russet Burbanks, which are harvested later, could be another matter. While early test digs showed indications of a large crop of good-sized potatoes, after the first of August the Burbanks appeared to stop growing, and as of late August, test digs were showing small size and low yields in many fields. Growers remained hopeful that in the time remaining before harvest, the potatoes would size up enough to produce a fairly normal crop. Acreage-wise, Idaho growers planted 311,316 acres of potatoes in 2018, up 3,550 acres from the prior year, but most of that is for processing, and fresh acreage is down 8,877 acres, according to Rick Shawver of United Potato Growers of Idaho. Read report in The Packer

Bord Bia gears up for Ireland’s National Potato Day 2018

Spuds up: Bord Bia gears up for National Potato Day 2018Bord Bia has announced the details of this year’s National Potato Day which takes place on Friday, October 5. The annual celebration honours Ireland’s most loved crop and encourages consumers to recognise its nutritional value and experiment with new and exciting recipes. This year Bord Bia is asking people to “Imagine a world without potatoes?” Tying in with a global campaign theme which highlights the importance and value of the worlds third most important food crop  – which places after rice and wheat in terms of human consumption. On the day, a range of events, talks and promotional activity will take place around the country to celebrate Ireland’s champion vegetable. Read more

International potato sales highest ever for the United States

Image result for potatoes usaAccording to a press release issued by Potatoes USA today, the value of total U.S. exports of potatoes and potato products increased by 2.37% for the July 2017 – June 2018 marketing year compared to the previous marketing year. The $1.8 billion in international potato sales is the highest ever for the United States. The biggest gain came in fresh exports up 8.5%, with dehy up 6% and frozen up 1.8%. The only decline was a drop of 4% in the value of chip exports. However, the fresh weight equivalent volume of exports declined by 0.86% to 3,246,830 metric tons or 71.6 billion hundredweight. This represents approximately 20% of total U.S. potato production for the marketing year. The only products to show export volume increases were dehydrated potatoes up 2% and seed potatoes also up 2%.  Continue reading

UK Potato Weekly report: Lifting continues, albeit off the pace

Image result for potato harvest ukAHDB Potatoes in the UK published its Potato Weekly report on Friday. According to the report, lifting across the UK has continued this week although it remains behind normal levels. Growers continue to wait for tubers to gain bulk and for skins to set, following the drought and subsequent rains. For many, secondary growth is a concern, particularly for non-irrigated crops. That said there have been reports this week of secondary growth issues on irrigated land. Old crop availability continues to stretch, albeit with some usual deterioration. In the East, irrigation was still ongoing for some. In the West, lifting of main crop is underway and gathering pace. Yields are proving to be variable. In the South, lifting has progressed with earlies and early maincrop nearing completion. In Scotland, variability of the crop is beginning to be seen in early lifting and trial digs. While the overall yield is probably faring better than the rest of the UK, it will likely be below average. Read the full Potato Weekly report

Only in Canada: Alberta farmers fret over late-summer snowfalls

Some Alberta farmers in Canada are concerned about their crops after a late-summer snowfall blanketed parts of the province, with more flurries expected in the forecast. Early season snow can squash crops that grow upright, like wheat and barley, make them harder to harvest and decimate their quality, leaving farmers with a less valuable product. For some farmers, the snow provided a little relief. Potato farmer Gord Visser spent some sleepless nights recently worrying that impending frost could destroy a large chunk of his current potato crop, but the snow has now provided a blanket to insulate his spuds from the cold. Still, the weather delayed how soon he could harvest his 500 acres by about a week, he said, because it’s too muddy to work. He’s still got 60 per cent of the crop left to bring in and typically aims to be finished by the end of September. Now, it looks like the harvest won’t be done until October, when the risk for colder weather is higher. Read more

Austria’s potato harvest 2018 turning out far below expectations

Image result for austria potatoThis year, decision-makers from the Austrian potato industry again gathered in Roseldorf/Lower Austria at the end of August to discuss the state of the national and international potato markets, reports AgrarMarkt Austria. All provided various contributions and evaluated the current situation in Austria’s potato industry. After a good starting price of 35-40 EUR/dt at the beginning of June, prices stabilized four weeks later at 18-20 EUR/dt. At the end of July, however, there was no longer talk of any oversupply. As the season progressed and there were problems due to the heat, both stocks and prices changed. At the beginning of August, the extreme drought had spread to almost all large growing areas. In many places, the damage had already been done. This year’s harvest will go down into domestic potato history as consistently difficult. Read more

Germany faces ‘severe potato shortage’ and increase in consumer prices, farm organization warns

Related imageGermany faces a severe potato shortage as a consequence of unusually hot and dry weather this summer, the German Farming Society (DLG) warned on Wednesday. “We are expecting one of the smallest potato harvests of all times in Germany”, Martin Umhau, a member of the DLG supervisory board, told the German press agency (dpa). According to Umhau, an anticipated fall in potato yields from 11.7 million tons in 2017 to 8.5 million tons in 2018 could hereby lead to an increase in consumer prices by up to 30 percent. Umhau was speaking ahead of the start of PotatoEurope 2018 in Germany this past Wednesday. Potato farmers are one of several agricultural sectors in the country who said they face the prospect of widespread crop failures due to the hot and dry summer. Federal and state-level governments announced that they would set aside 340 million euros (394 million U.S. dollars) in financial aid for farmers who suffered particularly heavy losses. Read more