Metals from Bolivian mines affect crops and pose potential health risk, study suggests

A University of Oklahoma Civil Engineering and Environmental Science Professor Robert Nairn and his co-authors have conducted a collaborative study that suggests exposure to trace metals from potatoes grown in soil irrigated with waters from the Potosi mining region in Bolivia, home to the world’s largest silver deposit, may put residents at risk of non-cancer health illnesses. “In this high mountain desert, water is a critically precious resource and the use of metal-polluted waters for irrigation may have substantial detrimental impacts on the lives of subsistence farmers,” said Bill Strosnider, researcher on the project. Potatoes are the primary dietary staple in the surrounding communities. “Our findings allow the research community insight into the potential human and environmental impact that vast active and abandoned mining operations may pose all across the Andean region,” said Alan Garrido, researcher on the project. More

Pepsico: ‘New emission targets keep global warming below two degrees Celcius’

Earlier this week, PepsiCo confirmed that its ambitious new target for greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reduction has been verified and approved by the Science Based Targets Initiative as being in line with what climate science says is necessary to keep global warming below two degrees Celsius. The global food and beverage company has committed to work to reduce absolute GHG emissions across its value chain by at least 20 percent by 2030. Under its Performance with Purpose vision, PepsiCo has already had significant success in limiting its GHG emissions.  Continue reading

Fast-food potato fries come with ecological impacts

Skinny, white friesThe popularity of Russet Burbank potatoes in North America, grown to meet demand for fast-food french fries, is said to have an ecological impact because their long growing season requires lots of fertilizer and fungicides. To grow these “bulked-up” tubers, farmers are encouraged to apply excessive applications of nitrogen fertilizer – recommendations have been designed to provide easy nitrogen access to the tubers. However, the extra nitrogen fertilizer not taken up by plants in wet, late season soils can transform to nitrious oxide, a greenhouse gas 300 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Nitrogen fertilizer remaining in the soil also transforms to nitrate, leaching into ground water. In order to make long, skinny, white French fries, processors are paying a premium to farmers for large Russet Burbank potatoes. Farmers grow what is profitable. The white colour of Russet Burbanks and the efficiency of excising optimal numbers of lengthy fries from these tubers are just the ticket for processors seeking to meet this peculiar market. The Little Potato Company ( is specializing in growing and processing small creamer potatoes. The ecological footprint of this product is much smaller than hefty potatoes for fries. More

First UK deposit in Global Seed Vault

The Commonwealth Potato Collection (CPC), an invaluable repository of potato germplasm held in trust by the James Hutton Institute with support from the Scottish Government, is set to make the first deposit of plant genetic material by a UK institution into the Global Seed Vault. The deposit is built in accordance with the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources for Food and Agriculture and the Convention on Biological Diversity. Situated inside a sandstone mountain on the island of Spitsbergen, halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole, the Global Seed Vault at Svalbard is the world’s largest collection of crop diversity. It constitutes a fail-safe seed storage facility built to stand the test of time and protect invaluable genetic resources from possible future catastrophic global environmental events. More

Late blight resistant potato variety gaining popularity in Bangladesh

Late blight resistant potato variety Sarpo Mira gaining popularity in Bangladesh The potato variety Sarpo Mira, highly resistant to late blight, is getting popular among farmers in the main potato-growing areas of Bangladesh, due to its higher output, said farmers and officials. Potato growers can get 38-42 percent more output at considerably 20 percent lower costs by cultivating the late blight resistant potato variety Sarpo Mira, they said. Giant Agro Processing Ltd (GAPL), a sister concern of Giant Group, imported and developed the seeds for local farmers, said its officials in a recent field visit in Thakurgaon. Four varieties were imported by Giant Agro Processing Ltd in 2011 from Denmark-based Danespo under a joint venture (JV) in a DANIDA (Danish International Development Agency) B2B- supported programme. Chairman of Giant Group Feroz M Hassan said the fungal infection called ‘late blight’ wreaks havoc on potato production each year and sometimes farmers lose 25 to 57 percent of their yield. More

How the bottom line is tied to wastewater treatment for processors

wastewater treatmentThis article looks at some real-world, win-win situations for treating wastewater and identifies some of the compelling reasons for food and beverage processors (including potato processors) to make some changes in the way they handle their wastewater. Frito-Lay’s 160,000-sq.-ft. facility in Casa Grande, AZ recycles up to 75 percent of production water back into the facility, has a 36-acre solar field that generates 10 million kWh of electrical power, has reduced its natural gas consumption by 80 percent with biomass boilers (which use recovered wood and agricultural waste for combustion) and sends less than 1 percent to landfill by recycling and alternative uses, such as cattle feed. This ambitious environmental sustainability project won gold LEED certification. J.R. Simplot Company’s process water treatment and return plant in Caldwell, ID was recognized by the WateReuse Association as its 2016 Industrial Project of the Year. Simplot consolidated the company’s french fry production for major customers into a single facility and created a zero-liquid discharge facility and produce effluent suitable for reuse in production. At Friweika eG, a potato processing facility in Weidensdorg (Germany), DAS Environmental Expert GmbH (Dresden) specialists were called in and worked out an innovative and effective solution for the company’s wastewater issues. More

Final countdown to make British potato stores CIPC compliant for 2017

potato storeTime is rapidly running out to make sure potato stores comply with new rules on using chlorpropham (CIPC), which require the sprout suppressant to be applied using “active recirculation” at new lower rates. As of July 2017, all spud stores will need to further restrict the maximum CIPC dose that is applied to potatoes to prevent sprouting. From the summer, rates for processing potatoes must fall below a new 36g/t limit while fresh market spuds can only be treated with up to 24g/t of the fumigant. The chemical is a vital tool to control sprouting and is applied to about 3.5m tonnes of potatoes stored each year. Since 2012 the potato industry has gradually reduced the amount of CIPC that is applied to stored crops after concerns over residue levels. To help growers and store owners comply with the new legislation, the CIPC Stewardship Group has launched a new technical guide. The new guide is now available to download as a PDF from the CIPC stewardship website. Farmers Weekly report

India: Environmentally friendly bags made from potatoes

They look like plastic bags but are made of materials like natural starch and vegetable oil derivatives. If placed in a glass of water at normal temperature, an EnviGreen bag dissolves in a day. And when placed in a glass of boiling water, it dissolved in just 15 seconds! These bags take less than 180 days to biodegrade naturally once discarded. So users can throw them away without worrying about harming the environment. The bags are even edible and will cause no harm to animals if ingested. More

Pepsico to support potato cultivation in Myanmar

PepsiCo identified Myanmar (Burma) as a potential hub for growing potatoes, thanks to its rich, fertile lands and favorable climate. The company undertook a comprehensive approach to partnering with farmers, training them on sustainable agriculture practices, and guiding them on investments in infrastructure, such as drip irrigation technology that conserves water usage and minimizes the use of fertilizers and chemicals, as well as improved potato storage facilities. When PepsiCo began the local sustainable agriculture program in 2014 through its partner in Myanmar, 38 farmer partners produced 700 tons of potatoes that year. By the end of 2017, the company projects there will be 144 farmers producing 3,300 tons of potatoes annually, reflecting improvements in average yields in tons per acre over the last three growing seasons. Continued field yield improvements can help PepsiCo drive better purchasing prices and expand to additional export markets to meet growing demand in countries such as Indonesia and Thailand. It also has the potential to improve farmers’ incomes, which are expected to rise 9 percent in 2017. Press release

Researchers: ‘Organic farming should embrace blight–resistant genetically engineered potato’

According to researchers Godelieve Gheysen and René Custers in Belgium, the EU regulation on organic farming does not allow the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs). “Why obstruct a cisgenic potato crop that can hardly be distinguished from a potato crop that is the result of conventional breeding?,” the scientists ask in a recently published research paper. “Among the reasons why organic agriculture does not allow the use of GMOs it is mentioned that genetic engineering is unpredictable, it causes genome disruption and it is unnatural. However, our knowledge of plant genome evolution and breeding has increased dramatically,” they say. According to Gheysen and Custers, we now know that breeding is more unpredictable and causes more genome disruption than genetic engineering. Recent field trials have shown the efficacy of cisgenic late blight–resistant potatoes carrying multiple resistance genes. Large-scale growing of such durably resistant potatoes would not only be environmentally beneficial by strongly reducing the need for fungicide sprays in conventional potato cultivation – it would also reduce the disease pressure in organic potato cultivation. Genetic Literacy Project report. Research paper as published in the Journal Sustainability

Ireland: €1m investigation into in-field sensors for barley and potato disease begins

Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine, Michael Creed, TD, with Dr Alan O’Riordan, research fellow at Tyndall National Institute. Image: Gerard McCarthyBacked 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 new research project addressing the issue, brings Tyndall National Institute, University College Cork, Dublin City University (DCU) and Teagasc together to investigate the problem and develop an antibody-based sensor. Barley crops in Ireland suffer from Rhynchosporium commune or ‘leaf scald’, and the potato sector has experienced a significant increase in virus-based diseases, resulting in reduced yield. “A vital step in addressing barley and potato crop disease is the implementation of adequate surveillance strategies so that rapid, in-field diagnosis can be made,” said Dr Alan O’Riordan, research fellow at Tyndall National Institute. Irish company MagGrow developed a device last year that reduces unwanted and potentially dangerous drift from crop spraying, winning an international prize in the process. The company attaches of a series of magnetic inserts onto a sprayer and an electromagnetic charge is infused into the liquid spray, resulting in targeted attraction. More

US: Potato growers prepare for new sustainability audit

Potato farmers doing business with some of the industry’s largest customers may be selected to complete a new audit this season, delving into sustainability issues such as recycling and how farm practices affect pollinators. A small number of U.S. growers were picked last season for a trial run with the new Potato Sustainability Audit. This season, the Integrated Pest Management Institute of North America will roll out the audit on a large scale. Growers doing business with major potato buyers; including Lamb Weston, J.R. Simplot, McCain Foods, Cavendish Farms, Basic American Foods, McDonalds and Sysco; will be asked to complete a 104-question survey assessing the sustainability of their operations. Twenty percent of growers surveyed will be audited in person. During the audit, growers will be asked for more in-depth explanations and records pertaining to 13 mandatory questions from the list and 27 optional questions of the auditor’s choice. Based on performance, growers will be ranked as basic, steward, master or expert. This is something to work toward, said University of Idaho Extension potato storage specialist Nora Olsen. The whole point of this is to improve year by year to do a little bit better by the environment. More

Scottish institute contributes rare potato seeds to global seed vault

Image result for rare potato varietiesA global seed vault designed to protect resources from future environmental catastrophes has received the first genetic potato material from the UK. The seeds are part of the Commonwealth Potato Collection (CPC) based at the James Hutton Institute near Dundee. The material will be stored at the Global Seed Vault, which is housed in a mountain on an island halfway between mainland Norway and the North Pole. The CPC was established in the 1930s by British botanists and collectors. It is one of seven large potato genetic banks in the world and aims to safeguard the genetic diversity of the crop. BBC report

Sustainability Report: Potato processor Lamb Weston / Meijer continues to innovate

Lamb Weston’s European joint venture, Lamb Weston / Meijer has published its sustainability report for 2015-2016. This sustainability report shows that Potato Processor Lamb Weston / Meijer is well on its way to achieving the sustainability objectives it has formulated for 2020. Over the last two years the company has made a number of significant investments to support those ambitions. Compared to the reference year 2008, energy consumption per tonne of product has reduced by more than 21% and potato utilisation has improved by 4.5%. Furthermore, Lamb Weston / Meijer pre-fries more than 82% of its products in a healthier frying oil. On an annual basis this equals a reduction of 9.6 million kilos of saturated fat through its products.  Continue reading

Australia: McCain to move into state-of-the-art robotic cold storage facility in Melbourne

NewColdMcCain Foods Australia today announced a contract agreement with cold storage provider NewCold. NewCold’s will manage the storage and handling of McCain’s frozen products at the storage provider’s new warehouse in Truganina, Melbourne, as part of a 10-year agreement commencing in July 2017. Louis Wolthers, Regional President for Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, India & China at McCain Food said that the McCain team is keen to see the outcomes of the new agreement take effect. “From a sustainability perspective, through the use of the warehouses’ highly controlled in-and-outflows combined with efficient cooling equipment, energy usage per pallet stored is up to 50 per cent lower compared to a conventional storage option,” he said. More

Bangladesh: GM potato crop ready for release

The Bangladesh Agricultural Research Institute, which has developed the blight resistant (RB) potato, applied on December 29 for the commercial release of the crop. GM crops are those whose DNA has been modified, in most cases, by introducing a new trait to the plant, thereby, giving it extra vigour either to resist diseases or withstand stress conditions. Once released, RB potato will be farmers’ answer to late blight, one of the most devastating plant diseases of potatoes. Farmers in Bangladesh spray up to 500 tonnes of fungicides annually to protect this major tuber crop from late blight. With an annual output of nine million tonnes, Bangladesh is a potato exporting nation, ranking 7th among the top potato-producing countries in the world. Continue reading

UK: Online calculator helps cut farms’ greenhouse gas emissions

It’s called the Cool Farm Tool (CFT) — an easy-to-use online calculator which helps farmers monitor their emissions of greenhouse gases. The CFT was initially developed by researchers at the University of Aberdeen in the UK in partnership with Unilever and the Sustainable Food LabNow managed by a group including academics and food manufacturers called the Cool Farm Alliancethe CFT is free for farmers to download. In 2010 PepsiCo, the drinks and food conglomerate, launched a programme aimed at making its operations more environmentally friendly. In particular it sought to halve the amount of greenhouse gas emissions and water use arising from production at its Walkers Crisps factory at Leicester in the UK—the largest such plant in the world. Spearhead Potatoes, based near Cambridge in the east of England, is one of the UK’s biggest potato companies, and a major producer for Walkers. John Addams-Williams, a director at Spearhead, says using the CFT and cutting back on water use has not only resulted in more sustainable farming practices but has also saved on costs. More

UK: Walkers Crisps cuts water use and carbon emissions in half over five years

Walkers Crisps has successfully reduced the water and carbon emissions used in the growing of its potatoes by 50% since 2011 after implementing a series of measuring techniques to identify where savings could be made. The PepsiCo-owned producer’s “50 in 5” project aimed to cut the amount of water and carbon at its UK potato farms based in water stressed areas. The company worked with the Agricultural Development Advisory Service (ADAS) to implement a series of new measures to help its 100 farmers achieve this goal. Among them was the use of the Cool Farm Tool, a carbon calculator used to collect data on farms to identify emissions hotspots. Gavin Janaway, who grows around 40,000 tonnes of potatoes for Walkers each year at Whitewater Farm in Hampshire, explained: “The Cool Farm tool allows us to look at our whole farming operation. That encompasses everything from every field pass we do with any piece of machinery, anything we do with the grading and washing process for the factory, all through to the storage of the crop.” This data is then used by ADAS to calculate hotspots of carbon emissions to identify where to make savings. Continue reading

Jersey: Potato growers take action to reduce level of nitrates

16703558Potato growers have identified two areas where farming practices must change this winter to prevent a repeat of the water pollution that shut Val de la Mare reservoir for five months earlier this year. A month away from the planting of the early crop of the 2017 potato season, the Island’s biggest potato producer, the Jersey Royal Company, is reducing the amount of agricultural chemicals that go on the land. The company is also proposing to bring in machinery that has never before been used in the Island for applying fertiliser to reduce nitrate levels in Jersey’s water. The Island’s nitrate levels are the highest in Europe and are said to be largely caused by farming. The Jersey Royal Company’s technical director, Mike Renouard, said: ‘We will be switching to chemicals that are less likely to leach into the water supply because they bind to the soil more. And instead of applying fungicide to the land when potatoes are planted, it is being applied to the tubers as we are standing the seed potatoes ready for planting.’ (Source: Jersey Evening Post)

AHDB committed to keep the UK Seed Potato Industry healthy

AHDB committed to keep the UK Seed Potato Industry healthyAHDB Potatoes has pledged to work closely with the seed potato sector and Scottish Government to ensure that the industry maintains a low level of the bacterial disease blackleg. Speaking at the Seed Industry event in St Andrew’s, AHDB Potatoes Strategy Director Rob Clayton said that while there are no easy answers when it comes to blackleg, the key to maintaining the high health status of the industry is collective responsibility. The event saw a national stock-take of current management practices regarding blackleg which will be used to drive future research and best practice recommendations. He also stressed that British seed is still very attractive to foreign markets. The importance of trade was also highlighted by AHDB’s Head of Exports Peter Hardwick, who spoke to the 200 delegates at the event about Brexit and the threats and opportunities for the seed potato sector. More

US: Florida’s Jones Potato Farm receives state award for environmental leadership

Jones Potato Farm recently became the third Manatee County farming operation to receive the Florida Ag Commissioner’s Agricultural-Environmental Leadership Award since it was first presented in 1994. The previous Manatee County recipients were Pacific Tomato Growers of Palmetto in 1999 and Schroeder-Manatee Ranch of Lakewood Ranch in 1995. Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam presented the awards at the Florida Farm Bureau state convention in Orlando. The awards recognize agricultural producers who practice environmentally innovative techniques. Other recipients this year were Alliance Dairies of Trenton and Cherry Lake Tree Farm of Groveland. Jones Potato Farm was nominated for the award by the Nature Conservancy. “The Nature Conservancy has been working with Alan Jones and Jones Farm since 2013 and we continue to be impressed by their dedication to implementing best practices for water, soil, fertilization and nutrient management,” Florida Nutrient Stewardship director David Royal said in a press release. More

Improving phosphorus management

With a global population expected by some to reach 9 billion people by 2050, improved management of key essential nutrients such as phosphorus will be necessary to boost crop yields and stay one step ahead of steeply rising food demand. If an applied rate of phosphorus is less than optimum for a crop under existing conditions, and a practice such as fertilizer placement that increases nutrient use efficiency is changed, yield will usually increase, at least in the short term. However, in other cases, nutrient use efficiency can increase with no effect on yield if a rate exceeding optimum levels is reduced to optimum. “The key to producing higher yields and feeding the growing world population is not simply applying more fertilizer, as one might think,” said Kenneth Avery, CEO of Verdesian Life Sciences. “Rather, it is finding sustainable solutions for nutrients such as phosphorus to be used more efficiently and effectively to produce more food. “Increased plant uptake of phosphorus translates into less of that nutrient being left in the soil, where it is subject to off-site movement into waterways,” Avery continued. More

‘Nederlandse aardappel bevat veel te veel nitraat’

De Nederlandse aardappel bevat meer dan twee keer zoveel nitraat dan goed voor ons is. Dat zegt Anton Nigten, promovendus op het gebied van bemesting, voeding en gezondheid. De Nederlandse aardappel bevat volgens hem meer nitraat dan die uit andere Europese landen. Nigten legt de oorzaak bij de intensieve bemesting en de vorm waarin boeren organische mest aanvoeren. Nigten zegt dat naast de nitraatgehalten de mineralenbalans in moderne landbouwproducten sterk te wensen laat. Volgens hem is de focus door de mineralentheorie van Justus van Liebig te eenzijdig gericht geworden. De Wageningse onderzoeker denkt dat de bodembiologie beter geschikt is om de juiste mineralenbalans in de voeding te brengen. Meer

CIP: ‘Day for Disaster Reduction’ touts root and tuber resilience

devastation-after-typhoon-haiyunObserved annually on October 13, International Day for Disaster Reduction is a celebration of global communities’ resilience in the face of natural or man-made disasters, as well as an attempt to draw attention to steps that need to be taken to bolster food security, infrastructure and more. In the face of more powerful storms resulting from a globally changing climate, potato and sweetpotato take on additional layers of significance on both fronts. Through its Food Security Through Asian Root and Tuber Crops (FoodSTART) project across Southeast Asia, CIP is working with partners to promote roots and tubers’ role in promoting greater food resilience. “Root and tuber crops (RTCs) [are] survival crops in times of food crises: during post-disaster periods (usually post-typhoon), lean months during monsoon season, and harvest failure caused by drought or pest infestation,” said Mavic Relayson, a CIP Philippines spokesperson. More

Report: Potato cultivation in danger of disappearing from the Netherlands

The Dutch potato cultivation has a strong position in northwestern Europe because of its good entrepreneurs and strong chain. These Dutch entrepreneurs are also in a leading position in the field of sustainability. At the same time, returns of potato cultivators are increasingly under pressure. There are plenty of opportunities for improving returns, and to continue investing in sustainability and innovation. A prerequisite is, however, an equal playing field in Europe. If this continues to fail to appear, there is every chance that other cultivation areas in Europe will take over production. That is the conclusion of the ABN AMRO in the report ‘Captivated by potatoes.’ More