Major players in Scotland’s seed potato industry, as well as myriad public sector organisations and the Scottish Government, are teaming up to fund new research into the devastating crop disease, blackleg. According to Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), blackleg caused the downgrade of 8% of Scottish seed crops in 2011. The disease spurs the soft rot of potatoes and can even kill off entire potato plants. In addition to the Scottish Government, the £242,000 research project has been sponsored by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board, with McCain Potatoes Ltd, Greenvale AP, Cygnet Potato Breeders Ltd, Agrico UK Ltd, APS BioControl Ltd, HZPC, Caithness Potatoes Ltd, Branston Ltd, and Techneat Engineering also supporting the study. Report by The Scottish Potato Farmer
Tyndall National Institute, University College Cork, Dublin City University and Teagasc are teaming up to research crop disease in Ireland. Backed with a €1m investment from the Department of Agriculture, a number of research institutions are looking to get to the bottom of crop disease. Ireland’s two most important crops are barley and potato, and disease poses a significant challenge to these and many other strands of agriculture. With that in mind, SCOPE, a research project addressing the issue, brings researchers from several institutions together to investigate the problem and develop an antibody-based sensor. Continue reading
For the past number of years, many potato researchers in several countries around the world have been focusing on the problem of zebra chip disease of potatoes, and the insect that transmit this disease to spud tubers, the potato tomato psyllid. Zebra chip became a serious problem for many potato growers and processors alike during the past few years in many potato producing countries, including North America, Europe, Australia and New Zealand. Zebra chip is caused by the Liberibacter bacterium and spread by tiny, winged insects called potato psyllids – and it creates bands in tuber flesh that darken during frying. University of Idaho (UI) researchers are studying reflections of various light wavelengths off of zebra chip-infected potatoes, seeking to devise a quicker and more precise method of quantifying disease prevalence. Continue reading
This Springer publication is said to be a timely overview of several decades of research on PVY, one of the most important plant viruses that will appeal to a broad academic audience (universities, public and private funded institutions) and the wide agri-biotech industry (growers, agronomist, breeders, policy). The authors present the latest data (published and yet unpublished) obtained by collaborating scientists (all known as experts on the PVY pathosystem) from different countries worldwide (i.e. members of the PVY-Wide organization). Experts in the field of virology have gathered to present an exhaustive overview of disease symptoms caused by PVY, providing a reference for the laboratory and field scientists and academics. The authors present a roadmap for future PVY research integrating current widely used approaches and novel/emerging technologies that will shape the future of epidemiology, pathology and diagnostic research. More
Alberta’s potato industry is worth more than $1 billion to our economy. But it’s threatened by a tiny bacterium, transmitted by potato psyllids. This year, a Lethbridge scientist reports, it hasn’t shown up. “That’s good news,” says Dan Johnson, a biogeography professor at the University of Lethbridge. He explains the bacteria are linked with zebra chip disease – already affecting crops in the U.S., Mexico and New Zealand. It turned up as early as May in Idaho this year. Potatoes infected by the bacteria develop unsightly black lines when they’re fried, making them unfit for sale. The bacteria are carried by an insect, the potato psyllid. “We found hundreds of potato psyllids last year, but we have found under 10 so far this year,” Johnson says. “None have the bacteria that cause zebra chip.” Last year, he points out, the insects were found in Saskatchewan and Manitoba. So this year, nearly 50 Alberta potato fields are being monitored. Source: Lethbridge Herald
Potato Cyst Nematode feeding activity on potato crop roots can severely delay emergence and, in pest hot-spots, result in patchy crops that never catch up, warns Syngenta Technical Manager, Douglas Dyas. Demonstrating the effects of delayed emergence at Potatoes in Practice (PiP) near Dundee this week (10 August 2017), Douglas highlighted that even a few days of difference in emergence can have a lasting legacy on potato crop productivity. Rapid emergence assures the longest possible growing season to achieve high yields, whilst even emergence is important for consistent tuber size and maturity at harvest, he told visitors to PiP. “Stronger root systems of crops protected from PCN damage by Nemathorin nematicide treatment would also be more efficient at scavenging for soil moisture and fully utilising fertiliser nutrients,” suggested Douglas. “Rapid ground cover from a fast growing crop can be extremely effective in suppressing weeds and ensure the best possible results from pre-emergence herbicide applications.” Continue reading
In a press release issued earlier today, it is announced that a group of major potato business and public sector organisations, including the Scottish Government and the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB), have sponsored a £242,000 research project aimed at reducing the impact of potato disease blackleg on the Scottish seed potato industry. AHDB and Scottish Government joint-funded a project during 2013-2016 which provided significant new information on blackleg and its origins. It also highlighted areas where further investigation is required for improved management of the problem. As a result, a second project will begin this September to identify the major routes of initial contamination of high-grade tubers and establish best practice for blackleg management. Sue Cowgill, Senior Crop Protection Scientist at AHDB said: “We hope that by determining the impact of post-harvest practices such as storage, grading and handling practices on the contamination of tubers we can set a platform for an industry-wide approach to tackling this disease. The research may also identify the potential for new and innovative control options as part of the blackleg management tool kit.” Continue reading
On Tuesday morning, 25 Dutch organic potato breeders, growers, and big supermarket chains signed a unique agreement entitled “Expedited transition to more robust potato varieties”. With this agreement, the organic sector wants to find a sustainable solution for the devastating potato disease: Phytophthora. Bionext, the organic sector chain organisers took the initiative for this. The direct reason for the agreement is the large-scale damage this disease caused in 2016 to organically grown potatoes. Potatoes are prone to getting phytophthora and natural pesticides were found to be lacking. To speed up the process, the agreement partners have decided to give robust varieties preference in the breeding, growing and selling stages. In this way it will be possible to have 100% organic disease-resistant potatoes by 2020. More
In a press release, the J.R. Simplot Company says Health Canada and Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have completed the food, feed, and environmental safety assessments of the J.R. Simplot Company’s second generation of Innate® potatoes. The authorizations enable the potatoes to be imported, planted, and sold in Canada, complementing the three varieties of Innate® first generation potatoes that received regulatory approval last year. research shows that Innate® second generation potatoes help reduce waste associated with bruise, blight, and storage losses by reducing waste at multiple stages of the value chain. According to academic estimates, if all fresh potatoes in Canada had Innate® Generation 2 traits, potato waste (in-field, during storage, packing, retail and foodservice for fresh potatoes) “could be reduced by 93 million kilograms. In addition, CO2 emissions could be reduced by 14 million kilograms, water usage reduced by 13 billion liters, and a total of 154,000 fewer pesticide hectare-applications would be needed,” Simplot says in its press release.
All but a few of the plants and animals we’re familiar with have one thing in common: they require oxygen in the atmosphere (or the water) to exist. We refer to these oxygen-dependent lifeforms as being “aerobic.” Less familiar are lifeforms that cannot grow in the presence of oxygen. Referred to as “anaerobic,” most of these organisms are bacteria, though a few rare, multi-cellular forms do exist. There is also a group of organisms that straddle the fence and are able to live in the presence or absence of oxygen, their metabolism converting to some form of fermentation under low oxygen conditions. We refer to these types as “facultative anaerobes.” So, what does this have to do with potatoes? Soft rot bacteria, arguably the most important potato pathogen known, are facultative anaerobes. Bacteria of the genera Pectobacterium (formerly Erwinia), and Dickeya (responsible for causing seed piece decay), blackleg, stem soft rot, as well as extensive storage losses, are members of this group. Like it or not, potato tubers are regularly subjected to anaerobic conditions in the field and in storage. In fact, the most frequent cause of soft rot seed decay and blackleg is probably soils that become waterlogged at the wrong time. Article by Phil Nolte, University of Idaho
Some Wisconsin potato growers are applauding new state laws that could help protect against crop disease. Gov. Scott Walker signed two new measures involving the potato industry on Wednesday. One law requires growers to use certified seed potatoes if planting 5 or more acres. “It’s a requirement that just about every one of the other seed states in the country that grow seed potatoes already have,” said Alex Crockford, director of the Wisconsin Seed Certification Program through the University of Wisconsin-Madison. The program certifies that seed potatoes grown in the state are free of damaging levels of viruses or diseases. Walker also signed a law that shortens the amount of time growers have to respond to late blight of potatoes. Growers now have 24 hours to treat plants with late blight or 72 hours to destroy them after receiving notice from the state Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Previously, farmers were given 10 days to address the issue. Read Wisconsin Public Radio report. Also listen to report
According to an Associated Press (AP) news report, published late last night on CBC Local in Sacramento, a Mexican federal court has made an unusual ruling yesterday that bans the import of US potatoes on the grounds that the imports ‘violate Mexicans’ right to food sovereignty and a healthy environment’. A group of Mexican potato growers had reportedly sought a constitutional injunction on the imports, claiming that any imports will result in the spread of agricultural diseases within Mexico’s borders. The court further said Mexican agricultural authorities had failed to use sufficient methods such as radiation treatment of imports to prevent disease spread. But because federal injunctions are intended only to protect constitutional rights, the ruling had to break some new ground. The court therefore ruled that the ban must be implemented to maintain Mexicans’ collective rights to “preserve food sovereignty and the health of Mexican crop fields.” According to the AP report, the US agriculture department had no immediate comment on the ruling.
Last week, the National Potato Council (NPC) in the US provided comments to USDA APHIS on the recent pest risk assessment for the importation of potatoes from the United Kingdom to the US. NPC emphasized concern over six pests that would threaten the industry. The introduction of these pests into the US would “substantially harm US potato production and could cost the industry tens of millions in lost export revenue”, the NPC warns. The pests of concern are: Dickeya solani, Meloidogyne minor, Synchytrium endobioticum, Ralstonia solanaceum, Globodera pallida and Globodera rostochiensis. NPC urged APHIS to approach the discussion with the U.K. with extreme caution. This public release of the pest risk assessment is a step in the process for considering whether these products can safely be imported into the US. The NPC says at this point, no determination has been made whether the pest and disease threats can be reasonably mitigated. (Source: NPC)
A Canadian monitoring program for potato pests has proven very valuable and offered good news for potato growers. The program began in 2013 in cooperation with Scott Meers, an insect management specialist with Alberta Agriculture and Forestry. University of Lethbridge bio-geography professor Dr. Dan Johnson and his team have been monitoring Prairie potato fields for the past few years, looking for evidence of the potato psyllid insect and a bacterium it can carry that can lead to zebra chip disease in potato crops. Continue reading
Growing potato varieties that are both resistant and tolerant to PCN holds the key to tackling one of the biggest threats to UK crops, according to agronomy firm Hutchinsons. The firm’s new Fenland potato demonstration site near Mildenhall is looking at how 15 leading varieties differ in their resistance and tolerance to the pest under a high pressure situation. The aim is to improve the limited information on varietal tolerance to PCN available from breeders and dispel some of the misconceptions around the role of “resistance”, explained John Keer from Richard Austin Agriculture, who is managing the trial with his colleague Michael Rodger. “Resistance and tolerance are not linked. There is a crucial difference growers have to remember,” he said. More