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

10 ways to improve potato storage management

A man with a torch inspects potatoes in a dark storeStorage is a crucial part of the potato production cycle, helping growers meet the demand for their crops throughout the year, but if carried out poorly it can be economically disastrous. About 3.25m tonnes of British potatoes are stored every year and crops can spend as long in the store as they do in the ground. Done well, potatoes will come out of store in perfect condition meeting processor specifications. However, done badly, tubers can spoil or even rot in stores with losses rapidly mounting up. To help get things right, the AHDB has updated its Potato Store Managers’ Guide to provide the most recent and comprehensive advice for potato store managers. Adrian Cunnington, the guide’s author and the head of Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research, highlights the key updates that will help improve storage practices for the upcoming season and beyond. Read the full article on FWI

The current global potato market: A brief overview

In Europe, the time has come for potato growers to harvest their potato crops. Estimates point to a smaller harvest and very disappointing yields. Is there pessimism? How are things going in Europe? And what is the situation in South Africa, the United States, Australia and New Zealand? This is an overview of the global potato market from Rudolf Mulderij, a reporter at FreshPlaza. In the northwest of Europe, he writes, “the harvest is significantly lower due to the extreme weather recorded in the summer months. France, Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium and the United Kingdom expect a lower volume compared to last year. Due to the warm and dry weather, there will be a 20 to 30% lower yield compared to the five-year average.” The export season came to an end more than a month ago in Israel, and the sector has closed a mediocre season, despite a small increase in both the total production and exports. In the Skagit Valley of the US State of Washington, growers expect a normal year. Some growers in New South Wales in Australia talk about “challenges” during the winter months in the southern hemisphere due to frost and dry weather. Read more

US scientists identified new mefenoxam resistant late blight strain

Image result for potato late blightAccording to Amanda J. Gevens, Associate Professor & Extension Vegetable Plant Pathologist at the Dept. of Plant Pathology, UW-Madison, a new late blight strain type, US-25 has recently been identified in New York State. According to Prof Gevens, this strain has, to this point, been found only on tomato. In a weekly newsletter, she says that Dr. Christine Smart, Professor at Cornell University, has been keeping extension and research pathologists informed of this new type, which is now known to be mefenoxam resistant and of the A2 mating type. Prof Smart reported that under lab conditions, US-25 will infect potato as well as tomato. Prof Gevens further says that “all samples tested from the Great Lakes region, USA region including WI, IL, and MI to date, have been US-23. The MN tomato late blight finding from several weeks back was not genotyped.” Continue reading

University of Idaho potato expert shares information on vine kill methods and timing

Long ago and far away, most potato growers relied on mechanical vine kill – flailing/chopping and rolling with heavy tires or other implements to break the stems, says Pamela J.S. Hutchinson, Associate Professor at the University of Idaho Aberdeen Research and Extension Center. Late blight and other reasons, such as need for faster kill, have changed grower practices, she writes. Now most of the industry relies on chemical vine kill or a combination of chemical and mechanical kill. Why concerns with late blight? Mechanical methods can break up vines into smaller pieces, sometimes still green, that are likely to remain in the field during harvest. In addition, although there’s not much, if any, hard data at this time to support the idea that late blight spores are distributed with this type of mechanical operation, recommendations are to NOT flail/beat/roll before vine-kill product application. So the question is, regardless of the threat of late blight in the area, does chemical vine kill w/ no mechanical provide enough reduction of plant material for efficient harvest? The answer, says Anderson, is yes! Read more

‘Should I Eat Potatoes?’ 5/5 nutrition experts say ‘yes, of course’…

Image result for Should I Eat Potatoes?Potatoes are the most consumed vegetable in America, but that doesn’t stop throngs of tater haters, who malign them as starchy and fattening. So are potatoes healthy?5/5 nutrition experts say yes — and want to shine up spuds’ reputation. “It is a pity that potatoes got a bad reputation for being fattening, because potatoes are a very nutritious, satiating and low-calorie food,” says Trudy Voortman, nutrition scientist at Erasmus Medical Center in the Netherlands. And a 2014 study also found that potatoes don’t, in fact cause weight gain. “When prepared in a healthful manner there is no reason to not eat potatoes regularly,” says study author Britt Burton-Freeman, PhD, director of the Center for Nutrition Research at Illinois Institute of Technology. “They may help in the prevention of certain cancers, and one study found that consumption of them could help in managing blood pressure in obese individuals without weight gain,” says Kristin Kirkpatrick, registered dietitian and manager of wellness nutrition services at Cleveland Clinic. Read more in TIME Health. Also read this

Tobacco rattle virus in potato explained

Photo, S.K.R. Yellareddygari, NDSUCorky ring spot is becoming more economically important across several potato production regions in the U.S. largely due to the spread of tobacco rattle virus (TRV) and because of restrictions on the use of current chemical control options. Potato specialists at NDSU/University of Minnesota recently published a factsheet explaining the influence of TRV on potato production. They note that tobacco rattle virus incidence has been reported in potato production areas in California, Colorado, Florida, Idaho, Michigan, Minnesota, North Dakota, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin. The virus has a broad host range, including potato, tobacco, corn, barley, sunflower, ornamental (tulip, iris, etc.) and a variety of weed hosts. The virus is transmitted in the field by soil-inhabiting stubby root nematodes of the genera Trichodorus and Paratrichodorus. Nematicides, soil fumigation and resistant cultivars can be used for nematode management. Detecting and quantifying viruliferous nematodes is important for making planting decisions and management approaches. Read more

New Zealanders take a closer look at ‘the good oil on fish and chips’

Seafood Bazaar manager Petrina Taua-Hunt says the Hamilton business prides itself on serving top quality fish and chips.While other countries regulate fryer fat use, experts in New Zealand say degraded oils at its favourite chippies is concerning. The key to producing good fish and chips is to use top-quality oil, filter the frying vats each day, regularly change the oil, and cook oils at the right temperature. But industry experts say not all fast food operators are making the health grade, and neighbourhood chippies are some of the worst offenders. Chemist Dr Laurence Eyres, a specialist in oils and fats, says the prevalence of fast food outlets using old degraded oils is concerning. “How often have you been in a fish and chip shop and it makes your eyes water because they are using the cooking fat well past its shelf life? It’s these oils that can have high levels of nasty compounds and which can be bad for you.”  Continue reading

Plants use calcium to send internal warning of attacking aphids

Scientists at the John Innes Centre have discovered how plants send internal warning signals in response to an attack by aphids. They found that when the insect feeds on a leaf it triggers the plant to admit calcium into the damaged cells. This small flux of calcium prompts the plant to signal that an attack is underway, and a larger amount of calcium is then mobilized from within the cell. These discoveries were the result of a collaboration between Professors Saskia Hogenhout and Dale Sanders. Professor Sanders elaborates on the findings: “We now know that when an aphid feeds on a leaf, the plant uses calcium as a warning signal. This signal forms part of the plant’s defense mechanism.” Understanding how plants respond and ultimately defend themselves from an attack is important for identifying ways in which these pests can be managed. Read more

James Hutton Institute: New findings could lead to climate-resilient potato varieties in future

Image result for james hutton potatoes in practiceResearch at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland has led to the discovery of genetic variations which can help protect potato crop yields at high temperature, potentially providing potato breeders with a valuable tool in their quest to create varieties resilient to heat stress. The findings were discussed by Dr Mark Taylor at the Potatoes in Practice 2018 event this week. Stress-resistant crops can be an important resource to preserve food security in the face of increased temperatures, such as those brought about by the recent UK heatwave. Dr Taylor said: ““Heat tolerant varieties are especially important for Scottish seed exports to growing markets in warm countries. Although most potato varieties are sensitive to heat there is significant variation in response to heat stress between different potato cultivars, and recent research at the Hutton has led to the discovery of genetic variations which can help protect potato crop yields at high temperature.” Recent leaps in the understanding of genomics, genetics and crop science, funded by the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research Fund, have made this type of genetic screening possible. Read more

Breeding breakthrough: Simplot to use ARS developed technology to speed up breeding of disease resistant potato varieties

Related imageAgricultural Research Service (ARS) scientists in Albany, California, have found a way to streamline the process that scientists use to insert multiple genes into a crop plant, developing a reliable method that will make it easier to breed a variety of crops with vastly improved traits. The technology is expected to speed up the process for developing new varieties that are better equipped to tolerate heat and drought, produce higher yields and resist a myriad of diseases and pests. “Making genetic improvements that were difficult or impossible before will be much easier because we can now insert not just one or two genes, but multiple genes, into a plant in a way that will lead to predictable outcomes,” said Roger Thilmony, an ARS molecular biologist in Albany.  Continue reading

Scientists discover new knowledge that could provide a method to combat late blight disease

Image result for Hutton potato blight diseaseNew research from the Birch lab in the University of Dundee’s Division of Plant Sciences, based at the James Hutton Institute, has discovered a mechanism that could combat late blight disease in potato crops. Professor Paul Birch, Head of the Division of Plant Sciences, said: “To be a successful pathogen, microbes need to suppress or otherwise manipulate host defences. To do this they use so-called ‘effector’ proteins that are delivered inside plant cells where they re-programme defences and metabolism to the pathogen’s benefit. “This latest research, primarily conducted by Dr Qin He and Dr Shaista Naqvi in my lab, found that the infamous potato blight pathogen delivers an effector protein into its host, which then targets a negative regulator of immunity (NRL1). This protein promotes the activity of NRL1 in removing the host protein SWAP70, which is a positive regulator of immunity.  Continue reading

PAA Symposium: Data, monitoring help fight potato pests worldwide

Related imageEarly detection and reporting often help keep potato pests in check even if regulators ultimately don’t order eradications and field quarantines as a result. Field data are the lifeblood of so-far successful efforts to isolate and remove major yield-reducing pests in Idaho, New York and various countries, speakers at a July 23 Potato Association of America symposium in Boise said. Idaho potato grower Brian Searle said he and other growers continue to make operational adjustments, and cooperate with researchers and regulators, a dozen years after yield-reducing Pale Cyst Nematode was discovered in southeast Idaho. PCN presence has diminished greatly there in initially quarantined fields. Soil sampling, sanitizing equipment, treating fields testing for viable eggs helped get many initially quarantined fields back into production, University of Idaho researcher Louise-Marie Dandurand said. Quarantines and safety certifications, of potatoes and seeds, can help control pest spreads between countries and within regions, said Prof Jacquie van der Waals of the South Africa Department of Soil Sciences and the University of Pretoria. Read more

US-China trade war: Idaho may be the biggest victim, but not for its potatoes

Image result for idaho potatoesIdaho is the state most exposed to fallout from the U.S.-China trade war, even though its most famous product, potatoes, has so far been spared from the wrath of Beijing’s retaliatory strikes, according to a new study. China buys Idaho’s frozen potatoes for its fast-food restaurants. In terms of Idaho’s signature crop, the U.S. Department of Agriculture valued the 2017 Idaho potato crop at more than $1.1 billion, or about 23 percent higher than the prior year’s harvest. But when including the processing side of the business the economic impact of the industry is even larger. China and Canada have spared frozen potatoes from tariffs. Both countries are major buyers of American frozen potatoes, primarily for the fast-food industry. “China is the largest export market that we have in the United States for ag products, but that’s not so with Idaho,” said University of Idaho agricultural economist Garth Taylor. “Canada and Mexico, our NAFTA partners, far outweigh our China connections.” Read more

Published: New bulletin on powdery scab of potatoes

Related imagePotato specialists at the University of North Dakato (NDSU) and the University of Minnesota recently published a bulletin in which they discuss several aspects related to the incidence and management of powdery scab of potatoes. According to Andrew Robinson, Neil Gudmestad and Francisco Bittara, the management of diseases caused by S. subterranea, the causal agent of powdery scab and root gall formation in potato, is difficult largely due to the nature of the pathogen. They recommend producers start with field selection and the adjustment of management practices. Planting clean seed into clean soil is a good beginning. Disease symptoms may increase or be exacerbated under waterlogged soil conditions and under excessive nitrogen levels. The amount of nitrogen also may increase the amount of inoculum returned by the pathogen to the soil. In addition, planting wheat prior to potatoes may increase the severity of symptoms.  Continue reading