Key considerations for potato farmers: The importance of crop rotation

When making decisions about how to achieve optimal product and yield, many potato growers turn to crop rotation. This method has proven time and again to help growers manage diseases that might affect their crop. “If you continually grow potatoes on the same ground, you’re going to get buildup of diseases that could lead to yield or quality problems,” said Curtis Rainbolt, Technical Service Representative at BASF. “You’re going to see benefits from planting a crop that isn’t a host for the same diseases potatoes are prone to.” If a grower rotates from a broadleaf crop susceptible to many of the same diseases as potatoes to a grass crop that is not so susceptible, then Rainbolt’s advice rings especially true. Whether growers decide to grow a broadleaf crop like sugar beets or a grass crop such as corn, it’s important for them to have diversity in their operation. “The more diversity you have in your rotation, the more you’re going to lower the disease pressure,” said Rainbolt. More

Idaho potato crop returns to average volumes

Idaho has bounced back to a more normal potato crop this season from its bumper crop last year. Last season, Idaho had more potatoes available for the fresh market than any other year in its history, said Ryan Wahlen, sales manager for Pleasant Valley Potato Inc., Aberdeen, Idaho. The United Potato Growers of Idaho reported that planted acreage statewide is down nearly 15,000 acres, from 322,629 in 2016 to 307,776 in 2017. Total fresh potato production in Idaho last season was 38.2 million cwt., according to the group. This season, it’s estimating production between 31 million and 32.5 million cwt. — a potential decrease of nearly 19%. “We expect that, as harvest finishes, shippers will realize how much lower yields were this season compared to last season and will adjust their pricing to reflect their reduced inventory,” Wahlen said. “The 15,000-acre decrease in potato acreage coupled with the lower yields we’ve experienced should translate to better grower returns this year.” More

Agrifirm introduces TopCote Potato: An innovative new coated fertiliser granule mix

The company Agrifirm in the Netherlands recently introduced a new fertilizer concept in the Netherlands: TopCote Potato. That is in essence a mix of coated and uncoated potato fertilizers. Due to the coating, nitrogen is gradually becomes available, or slowly released for plant use. TopCote Potato is said to feature a unique composition of coated and uncoated fertiliser granules. The phased/slow release of minerals and nutrients means the needs of the potato crop are optimally supported throughout the growing season. The use of TopCote Potato is said to be more effective in this respect if compared with regular fertilisers, and according to Agrifirm, use of TopCote Potato results in demonstrably better crop yields. TopCote potato was presented during PotatoEurope and will be available from December 2017.
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Research: Straw mulch increases potato yield and suppresses weeds in an organic production system

Related imageScientists at the Dept of Plant Pathology, University of Wisconsin-Madison in the US grew late and early maturing potato cultivars under two organic management systems using straw mulch or mechanical cultivation for weed management. In a paper published in the journal Biological Agriculture and Horticulture, researchers Ruth K. Genger, Douglas I. Rouse, and Amy O. Charkowski say that it was found that application of straw mulch at emergence consistently increased total and marketable A-size yields for the late season cultivar Freedom Russet, and shifted the profile of marketable A-size tubers toward larger sizes. Increased yields were seen for the early season cultivar Dark Red Norland in some years, and may be related to amelioration of environmental stress by straw mulch. Mulch provided more effective control than mechanical cultivation for some broadleaf weeds. The researchers concluded straw mulching is a viable management option for organic potato production, with potential benefits for broadleaf weed management and tuber yield. More

UK: Late blight pressure at independent Eurofins trials site

A surge in late blight pressure on the independent Eurofins trials site in Derbyshire has developed into one of the best tests of potato blight fungicides for many years. One trial, designed to mirror the Euroblight categorisation under UK conditions and native blight strains, has underlined the importance of the rating, along with some interesting developments during 2017, reported Syngenta Potato Field Technical Manager, Douglas Dyas.  This year one trial protocol tested 13 different fungicides with single product use at weekly application right through the season; “infector” rows between plots were inoculated with strains of blight and managed to induce high blight pressure across the site. “Although in practice all growers and agronomists would select and alternate different blight products in a programme through the season, the trial is a genuine test of any fungicide active’s true capability, and how it performs under UK conditions with evolving blight strains,” advocated Douglas.  Continue reading

AMVAC and Simplot collaborate on SIMPAS prescription application system

Related imageAMVAC Chemical Corporation recently announced a collaboration with the J. R. Simplot Company to field test AMVAC’s proprietary SIMPAS™ prescriptive application equipment. SIMPAS stands for Smart Integrated Multi-product Prescriptive Application System. This technology enables Simplot Grower Solutions (SGS) to test-run the application equipment as part of SGS’s comprehensive services to their growers. SIMPAS allows growers to apply multiple differentiated products to only the portion of the fields needing specific inputs. According to Dave Dufault, Vice President and General Manager, J. R. Simplot Company, “We’ve been big and early supporters of 4R Nutrient Stewardship to ensure growers use the right fertilizer in the right amounts at the right time and in the right place, and this technology expands these services to a total solution. Combining Simplot’s SmartFarm data-driven agronomy solutions and AMVAC’s SIMPAS technology, we can enable farmers to apply crop protection, nutrition and specialty products to only those areas of their fields where they’re needed.”  Continue reading

A New Zealand agritech startup helping US potato farmers just listed on Australian Securities Exchange

A tech company that helps farmers improve crop yields will list on the Australian Securities Exchange on Tuesday. CropLogic has raised the $8 million it sought in an IPO, and said it was even offered $1 million on top of that during the offer period. Forty million ordinary shares will be issued at 20 cents each, and the business will have a market cap of $25 million. The New Zealand “internet of things” agriculture tech company, established in 2010, uses on-field sensors connected via wireless and satellite channels to collect data such as soil moisture and temperature, and rainfall, alongside other information to give farmers a predictive analysis of their efforts. CropLogic’s current client base is predominantly potato farmers in the Pacific northwest region of the USA. Potato trials have been completed with big names like PepsiCo, Lamb Weston, Simplot and McCain Foods throughout USA, China, Australia and New Zealand. More

Sonar sensors re-purposed to automatically control digging depth during potato harvest

By necessity, farmers are fixers, solvers and constant innovators. Day in and day out, they analyze their farms’ needs, innovate solutions to countless challenges, and dream up ways to make their operations better. So, while I’m always impressed, I’m never surprised when a producer takes an existing technology and sees its value in an entirely new way. Such is the case with sonar sensors, originally designed to control boom height on sprayers. About a decade ago, creative farmers began to realize that, with some modification and a slightly different configuration, sonar sensors could be repurposed to automatically control both digging depth during potato harvest and boom height control during truck loading. The technology improves convenience, decreases tuber damage and improves harvest efficiency. A handful of companies have now tweaked the technology to make it best suit multiple uses. More

Canada: Growers advised to ensure accurate soil test results and learn what to do with it

The phrase that advises us never to compare apples to oranges should be taken very seriously in relation to soil tests according to Pat Toner, a soil management specialist with New Brunswick Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Aquaculture (NBAFA) in Canada. “A standard test will measure water pH, buffer pH, phosphorus, potassium, calcium, magnesium and sulphur, but you need to ensure a couple of things are in place for the results to be accurate and useful,” Toner explains. “You can also have a micro-nutrient analysis done, but these results are harder to relate back to the crop and it’s better to do a tissue analysis for that.” Soil organic matter can also be requested in order to track trends over time and assess the impact of manure, green manure and tillage. A useful publication, Soil Sampling – The Key to Effective Nutrient Management Planning also recommends keeping good records and maintaining a consistent sampling plan. Full article published on Spud Smart magazine

Texas potato researcher plans to pack more value into the crop

Texas potato growers may be few in number, but their spuds hit a market window that brings a premium each year at harvest. Now, a new potato scientist for Texas A&M AgriLife Research plans to pack even more value into the commodity through traditional and molecular breeding. Upon arriving in Texas last January, Dr. Isabel Vales was quick to put down roots both in her greenhouses near the Texas A&M University campus in College Station and hundreds of miles away where potatoes are grown in the northwestern part of the state. Vales said she is nearing a point of developing a plan to help take Texas potato farmers to the next level of production and market efficiency. Vales said consumers also will play a role in her plans, because of their desire for traits such as healthy components and a trendy preference for smaller potatoes.  Continue reading

UK: Promising weed-control alternative to fill gap when linuron is withdrawn

According to an AHDB press release issued today, early results from a four-year crop protection research project in the UK have identified metobromuron as having potential to fill the gap that will be left for many vegetable growers when the herbicide linuron is withdrawn from use in June 2018. Linuron has been a mainstay of potato production for the past 25 years, with 65% of ware crops receiving treatment according the 2014 Pesticide Usage Survey. Metobromuron is being tested to increase understanding of its use and performance as part of AHDB Horticulture-funded SCEPTREplus trials. Growers invited to view the trials in the summer also identified five further herbicide treatments that were considered acceptable with regard to crop safety and will now be taken forward for further testing.  Continue reading

World’s largest event on agricultural biostimulants to be held in November

Image result for biostimulantsAgricultural biostimulants include products that are applied to plants or soils to regulate and enhance the crop’s physiological processes, thus making them more efficient. Biostimulants act on plant physiology to improve crop vigour, yields, quality and post-harvest shelf life/conservation.The 3rd Biostimulants World Congress will take place in Miami, Florida on Monday November 27 until Thursday November 30. It is organized by New Ag International. This event should be of interest to many individuals involved in the potato industry. Biostimulant specialists from several countries around the world will present during the event. Continue reading

UK: Potato marketing company ‘driving marketable yield to achieve greater production’

James Hopwood, head of agriculture at Whole Crop Marketing at Kirkburn near Driffield with different varieties of potatoes.Professional potato growing has never been analysed as much as it is today in order to produce the right varieties for the right markets and understanding soil is paramount. Driving marketable yield to achieve greater production from the same acreage is one of the key planks in Wholecrop Marketing’s strategy to provide greater sustainability for their growers. Last week the potato marketing company, based at Kirkburn near Driffield, held its annual field trials day where 109 potato varieties were on show across the 17-acre site. But it was Innovation Alley that also attracted massive attention. “Innovation Alley is all about increasing marginal gain for our growers. Varieties are very important and the work there will always see new strains developed. …Soil health is massively important. Every potato grower needs to be aware of and understand what is in the soil and that means undertaking an in-depth analysis of the micro and macro nutrients.” The company has also invested in a drone and aerial sensing works on reflectance from the crop, and provides mapping by calculation of light spectrums. More

US: More than 500 potato growers and retailers unite on sustainability initiative

The Sustainability Consortium (TSC) announced today their mutual membership and partnership with the Potato Sustainability Initiative (PSI) to align metrics in measuring sustainability issues in the potato supply chain. TSC and PSI will work together to align sustainability metrics for over 500 potato growers and key retail partners. This partnership will also help streamline reporting by potato growers to retailers by working together to align metrics between PSI and TSC. PSI will join several agriculture initiatives currently TSC has in place to align metrics from farms to manufacturers to retailers. Dr. Christy Melhart Slay, director of research at TSC said, “TSC is very pleased to announce our partnership with PSI. Potato growers have been some of the first to create and adopt sustainability metrics. We look forward to learning from this progressive initiative.”  Continue reading

US: Potato growers do their part for soil health

Soil health is the next frontier in agriculture. While the ag industry has seen leaps in innovation in seed technology, equipment design and precision management strategies, there hasn’t been a concentrated effort to aggregate and measure the beneficial effects of innovative soil management strategies — until now. Nick Goeser, director of the Soil Health Partnership, says by managing soil’s physical, biological and nutrient aspects, practices to improve soil health can make a significant difference in yield resiliency and enhanced environmental outcomes. Additionally, improved soil health can make good business sense, too. John Keeling, vice president and executive director for the National Potato Council, said the potato industry is in the early stages of understanding soil health from a potato-centric view. Keeling notes potato growers are interested in strategies that have to do with enhancing soils to make them a part of pest management practices. More