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

Researchers discover natural product that could lead to new class of commercial herbicide

Plants and unseen microorganisms in the soil all need precious space to grow. And to gain that space, a microbe might produce and use chemicals that kill its plant competitors. But the microbe also needs immunity from its own poisons. By looking for that protective shield in microorganisms, specifically the genes that can make it, a team of UCLA engineers and scientists discovered a new and potentially highly effective type of weed killer. This finding could lead to the first new class of commercial herbicides in more than 30 years, an important outcome as weeds continue to develop resistance to current herbicide regimens. Using a technique that combines data science and genomics, the team found the new herbicide by searching the genes of thousands of fungi for one that might provide immunity against fungal poisons. This approach is known as “resistance gene-directed genome mining.” Read more

Tiny but effective: Researchers developed new nano-material as potato sprout inhibitor

Related imageIn a research paper published recently online in the journal ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering, scientists from Hefei Institute of Physical Science in China claim they have developed a nano-material that inhibits the sprouting of potatoes. The material is named “hydrophobic nano silica” (H-SiO2) and was developed through the modification of nano silica by amino silicon oil (ASO) – and then applied as a sprout inhibitor on potato tubers. The researchers say the material suppresses the formation of toxic glyco-alkaloids that typically is associated with the sprouting process. They further claim that treated tubers did not show a negative effect as far as germination is concerned when planted as seed. The material is said to be easily removed by washing prior to cooking since it does not penetrate the skin of tubers and thus does not pose a food safety risk. Although not commercialized at this point in time, the new material does seem to be of interest to those who specializes in potato sprout inhibitors. An abstract of the research and contact details can be found on the website of the ACS Sustainable Chemistry and Engineering journal.

Researchers tease out the reason for late blight pathogen’s ability to evade immunity in potatoes

Image result for late blight potatoIn a paper recently published in BMC Evolutionary Biology, an international team of scientists describes how evasion of host immunity by a clonal variant of the potato blight pathogen Phytophthora infestans is associated with variation in gene expression without any apparent underlying genetic changes. According to senior authors of the study, Vivianne G.A.A. Vleeshouwers, Hannele Lindqvist-Kreuze and Sophien Kamoun, They studied two different races of the Irish potato famine pathogen, and we discovered that the difference invirulence between these races could not be ascribed to a genetic difference but rather to a difference in the expression of the underlying virulence gene. “This adds to our knowledge of how this important scourge on world agriculture evolves to evade plant immunity,” the researchers say.  Continue reading

Australian experts underscore importance of certified potato seed for black leg disease control

Related imageAround the world, blackleg of potato is caused by several species of bacteria that can be carried and transmitted through seed tubers. Potatoes Australia spoke to Agriculture Victoria Research Scientist Dr Rachel Mann and ViCSPA General Manager Dr Nigel Crump about the identification and management of the blackleg disease. The main causal agent of blackleg in Australia is Pectobacterium atrosepticum although another bacterium known as Dickeya dianthicola was discovered in Western Australia in 2017. Dr Rachel Mann has been assisting with the traceback of the disease. “Blackleg is something that people can readily identify in the field, although it is not possible to determine which bacteria is causing it,” Dr Mann said. Seed tubers are the most important source of inoculum in the blackleg disease cycle. Therefore, management of the disease largely relies on the use of certified seed. “Due to the use of clean seed, blackleg is not very prevalent in Australia,” said Dr Nigel Crumm. Read full article on p20 of the June/July issue of Potatoes Australia

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

PAA to meet in Boise

2018 PAA Annual MeetingIdaho will host the Potato Association of America’s 102nd annual meeting, from July 22 to 26 at the Boise Centre in Boise. With a membership of over 500 individuals and 20 organizations, the association is comprised of potato industry personnel and growers, private and public potato researchers and university research and extension researchers. More than 250 association members are expected to attend this year’s meetings and seminars. Each year, the association recognizes individuals with honorary lifetime memberships for their career achievements within the potato industry. This year’s honorary life member inductees are Robert Hoopes, a Frito-Lay potato breeder; Washington State University’s Rick Knowles; the University of Idaho’s Stephen Love; and Leigh Morrow, director of agronomy for eastern North America for McCain Foods. Potato Association of America

‘Electrocuted’: Pilot programme in New Zealand puts the power into potatoes

The Pulsed Electric Field Technology (PEF) machine on display at McCain Foods in Washdyke.The humble potato is in for a shocking multi-million dollar South Canterbury makeover. An industry pilot programme, part of the Ministry for Business and Innovation funded Food Industry Enabling Technology (FIET) programme worth almost $16.8 million, is being trialled at McCain Foods in Washdyke, Timaru, in what has been described as “electrocuting potatoes”. The three month test of the new Pulsed Electric Field Technology (PEF) machine from Germany, began in Timaru on Wednesday and involves industrial-scale food processing of the popular french fry. The machine uses a brief electric pulse to modify and disrupt the membranes of cells in plant or animal material. Otago University researchers are leading the pilot trial on potato processing – with initial research showing promising results for minimising waste through having fewer broken chips during processing.  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

Spotting airborne foes: Novel spore trap designed to detect and identify key crop pathogens

Image result for Burkard Manufacturing spore trapAn automated spore trap has been developed by researchers and industry partners in the UK which is said to have to potential to “revolutionise disease monitoring in agricultural crops.” The device, which was developed as part of an AHDB project led by Rothamsted Research, provides near real-time information on the presence of airborne spores and could potentially help farmers target fungicide applications better. Several DNA-based methods to detect airborne spores of key crop pathogens were also developed or improved in the project. The ‘DNA auto spore trap’, which was developed with the Burkard Manufacturing Company, is mains-powered and can issue regular alerts on the presence of spores that could affect nearby broad-acre crops. Once collected, spores are disrupted to release DNA for identification by a series of ‘in-trap’ laboratory tests. Results are then sent wirelessly to a server, thanks to an internal 4G router. Tests for pathogens which are of importance in potatoes are Sclerotinia sclerotiorum (stem rot, also known as white mold), and Alternaria solani (early blight). A spokesperson at AHDB told Potato News Today that a trap designed specifically for late blight detection is in the works. Read more. Further information is also available in AHDB Final Project Report 594.

Field walks and open days: British potato farmers invited to come get the boots dirty in demonstration fields

AHDB Potatoes in the UK will be hosting several events during the coming weeks when growers will be able to see the practical results of dedicated potato research work in real life and how it pans out in growers’ fields. Strategic Farm West Field Walk will be hosted on 28 June. With their first year under their belt, Farm Manager, Matthew Wallace will be providing a fresh focus on research carried out at Heal Farms in Shropshire last season. This year the focus is on PCN and nematicides. SPot East Open Day will take place at Elveden Farm Estate, London Road, Thetford on 5 July. Several topics will be on the agenda, including presentations by Mark Stalham (NIAB CUF) on nitrogen and black dot, and David Firman on sulphur and seed storage. SPot Scotland Summer Open Day will take place on 10 July, when growers will be able to see several demonstrations underway – cultivations, nutrition, seed spacing, cover crops, Precisio and more. Further details on upcoming events

World Potato Congress: Abstract Book now available online

Related imageThe Abstract Book, containing abstracts of presentations delivered in May during the 10th World Potato Congress in Cuzco, Peru has been published online, and can now be downloaded as a pdf file from the World Potato Congress Inc website. In the Preface to the 168 page Abstract Book it is said that the themes “Biodiversity, Food Security and Business” represent what Peru, as the host country and the most important center of origin of the potato, can show and share with the world. In this Congress, Peru and other Latin American countries showcased their great potential from a scientific point of view, where biodiversity, and its relationship with the development of new varieties, nutrition and health, represents a valuable and still unexploited treasure for the world. The Congress also highlighted the great contribution of the different improved and native potato varieties to global food security, the development of pest and disease management technologies, and more. Download the Abstract Book

Research in action: PCN advisory tool under scrutiny

Four potato varieties not known to be resistant to white potato cyst nematode (Globodera pallida) have given much better yields than eight others in the first year of a two-season SARIC-funded research project in the UK. The latest work aims to improve AHDB’s potato cyst nematode population advisory tool (potatoes.ahdb.org.uk/online-toolbox/pcn-calculator), explains Matthew Back, of Harper Adams University. “We’re working with the University of Leeds and Barworth Agriculture to overcome issues which relate to the accuracy of yield benefits from chemical control and tolerance values,” he says. Five of the top 10 UK varieties are missing from the PCN calculator, notes colleague William Watts. They are Markies, Melody, Nectar, Royal and Taurus. “New management practices such as trap cropping and biofumigation aren’t yet built into it,” he adds. Field experiments on PCN-infested land were carried out last season on the top 10 most widely grown varieties plus two PCN-tolerant varieties – Cara and Maris Piper. Read more

‘It takes an industry to identify and solve problems,’ says recipient of World Potato Congress award

Gary Secor, a professor in North Dakota State University’s Plant Pathology Department, is one of three scientists worldwide to receive the 2018 Industry Award from the World Potato Congress. He received the award during the 10th World Potato Congress, which was held last month in Cusco, Peru. During his career, Secor has published information on numerous potato diseases that have had a substantial impact on the industry. He has discovered several new diseases, including the zebra chip. In addition, he has authored more than 91 publications and 12 book chapters, and delivered more than 300 national and 100 international presentations in 21 countries. “It is special to get an award from the industry I have enjoyed working with for 47 years,” he says. “Getting an award like this is not just for one person, but is the result of many people working together and supporting each other – students, technical support, colleagues, staff, allied industry collaborators. It takes an industry to identify and solve problems. This is a great honor for me.” Read more