Potato plants need a lot of nitrogen to produce tubers at optimum levels, but with more applied nitrogen comes an increased risk of nitrogen loss to the atmosphere. Guillermo Hernandez Ramirez, an assistant professor at the University of Alberta, is studying the use and loss of that fertilizer in potato crops. He is testing various nitrogen fertilizer formulations and biostimulants to gauge their effect on potato productivity and nitrous oxide emissions. “In potato crops we want to be able to figure out what’s the environmental footprint and one of the main components of the environmental footprint is actually greenhouse gas emissions,” Ramirez said during a late August field day at the Crop Diversification Centre in Brooks. A biostimulant called HYT-A, has been tested on potatoes and other high-value crops in Europe, and this was included for the first time in a North American study More
European processors have worked to align themselves with the environmental goals passed by their home countries. Their innovative responses to those new rules have led, in some cases, to increased efficiency and greater productivity. One of those companies, Netherlands-based Lamb Weston/Meijer, wanted to know if using drip irrigation would be an economically feasible solution to water issues for some of their growers. Jolanda Soons-Dings, senior manager sustainability, said the company saw the biggest opportunity for drip irrigation in the United Kingdom where water scarcity and stricter legislation, such as water quotas set by local governments, make water a hot commodity. Company trials in the UK (2015) showed, on average, a 5–10 percent increase in yield using the same amount of water. The potatoes, noted Soons-Dings, were also of better, more consistent quality. More
The first in-furrow SDHI fungicide for potatoes offers farmers another option for controlling Black scurf, caused by the fungus Rhizoctonia solani, a disease that can slash marketable yields by 30%. (SDHI stands for Succinate DeHydrogenase Inhibitors in the UK). Although growers can successfully control the disease with azoxystrobin, it can prove harsh on plants leading to delayed emergence. However, from next season growers will have an alternative that is less harsh, said Basf campaign manager Matthew Goodson at the recent British Potato event in Harrogate. Based on the SDHI active fluxapyroxad, the new potato product Allstar outperformed the in-furrow strobilurin in independent German trials. “Allstar yielded 20% more potatoes than azoxystrobin [treated crops] across all six varieties tested.” More
“Somebody was telling me the other day that we have over 3,000 flavors in what we call our flavor bank,” said Christine J. Cioffe, Ph.D., senior vice-president, Sustainability and Global Snacks R.&D. at PepsiCo, Inc., parent company of Frito-Lay. “I think it speaks to the power of a company that operates across 200-plus countries.” Flavor, Dr. Cioffe said, is a “stronghold” for Frito-Lay. “It’s definitely a capability that R.&D. has built and strengthened over the last decade or so,” she added. “Flavor is going to continue to be an opportunity.” Meanwhile, the product development team at PepsiCo is focused on making its snacks healthier. The company has committed to limiting sodium and saturated fat while adding whole grains, vegetables and protein, said Elizabeth Roark, registered dietitian and principal scientist, PepsiCo Nutrition Services. In its Performance with Purpose 2025 Agenda PepsiCo outlined its nutrition goals. More
A trio of climate scientists have shifted their forest research techniques to the rural farming regions of the Peruvian tropical Andes and the warming impact on two dietary staples of Latin America — potatoes and corn. Their findings, published last month in the journal Global Change Biology, are grim. “For these crops, which are representative of other crops grown in the tropics, it’s a damned if you do, damned if you don’t outcome,” said Kenneth Feeley, a tropical biologist at the University of Miami and a study co-author. “If farmers ignore climate change and keep farming the same fields they always have, we find it’s going to be disastrous for these crops.” The climate impact on potato farmers was worse than that of corn. Peru’s international agricultural center also studies potato production and is actively looking for solutions to protect crops from climate change. More
In September, the new potato storage season begins in the Netherlands. An atomiser, specifically for the application of sprout inhibitors in potato storages has been designed and is manufactured by Frans Veugen Bedrijfshygiëne bv. The atomiser, named the Synofog, uses a new technique: electro-thermal atomisation. The advantage of this new piece of equipment is that it does not have an open flame. This ensures its safe use with all kinds of sprout inhibitors. Before the development of the Synofog, fuel engines were often used. There was an open flame, and hot airflow. This warm air is created in a different manner with this new machine. The Synofog blows air through a heating element. According to Jos Veugen of Frans Veugen Bedrijfshygiën, “In this way we adjusted the ‘old’ atomiser’s technique to an electric way. The Synofog is much safer and emits no CO2. This is a big plus, because these emissions speed up the potatoes’ ageing process.” More
The Potato Sustainability Initiative (PSI) in North America is seeking an Executive Director to support its growing programs into the future. Started by the National Potato Council, the Canadian Horticultural Council and a host of potato buyers, processors and growers in 2010, PSI now involves more than 500 growers, McDonald’s, Sysco, the National Potato Council, the Canadian Horticulture Council, Basic American Foods, Cavendish, Kraft Heinz, McCain Foods, Lamb Weston, Simplot and the IPM Institute of North America. PSI has developed both outcome and practice based sustainability metrics that allow growers to measure and report to supply chain partners improvements in the sustainability of their operations over time. For more information, please visit the PSI website.
In the Netherlands, Aldi and Lidl recently signed a covenant titled ‘Accelerated transition towards resistant/robust potato varieties’. Signees also include Albert Heijn and Jumbo Supermarkets. Superunie, the purchasing organization representing thirteen independent supermarket organizations in the Netherlands, intends to sign the covenant shortly. Potato seed companies who signed the covenant include Agrico, HZPC, C. Meijer, Plantera, Den Hartigh, Europlant, Danespo, Caithness Potatoes and Plantum. With this agreement, the biological sector wants to provide a sustainable response to the feared potato disease, late blight. Continue reading
VDH Concept, a Belgian company specializing in retail packaging for potatoes, vegetables and fruit, has recently introduced SQ Pack, a new packaging with a net structure perforation. According to Jan van den Heuvel, owner of VDH Concept bvba, “Allowing net structure perforations is a new way of packaging and is suitable for a lot of products, including potatoes and onions, but also citrus and bulbs. As the small holes in the foil let air in, the product is better able to breath and it extends the shelf life. There are different designs of the packaging available. The SQ-pack is available as a ‘pillow bag’, quadroseal (standing bag), doy pack or with side folding. With the foil we mainly focus on shelf life.” Customers can choose different ‘window shapes’ which are simulated as a net structure. More
Tesco has announced its involvement in a project to help East Anglian potato growers protect the soil on their farms and the wildlife in surrounding waterways. The project, which Tesco is running with the Broads Authority, is designed to improve farmers’ yields and protect the environment. It is aimed at limiting the amount of top run-off from producers’ fields, which can harm wildlife in nearby rivers and remove valuable nutrients from the soil. In East Anglia the need to protect the environment is particularly great because many of the rivers in the area flow into the Norfolk Broads – a large network of lakes and rivers that host a huge diversity of rare species. One example of new technology to protect the soil is the so-called ‘Wonder Wheel’, which the retailer has funded to make parts of the field, such as where the tractor drives, more water-retentive. More
Ground-penetrating radar might help the potato industry save water, according to Dr. Dirk Hays, Texas A&M AgriLife Research plant geneticist in the soil and crop sciences department at College Station. Hays’ latest project utilizes ground-penetrating radar to select early maturing potato cultivars, which can help producers make harvest decisions and increase water-use efficiency. His project is in coordination with AgriLife Research and the department of horticultural sciences potato breeding program conducted by breeders Dr. Creighton Miller and Dr. Isabel Vales, both at College Station. “We know radar will work on potatoes,” Hays said. “Radar works on detecting objects that are denser than the soil environment they are in. Potatoes are very moist versus the sandy soils they are grown in, so it’s relatively easy to image the potatoes with the ground-penetrating radar.” Continue reading
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
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
The deepest metal mine in Europe, at a depth of 1,444 meters, is located in the Finnish town Pyhäjärvi. In about two years from now, the metal recovery from the mine is expected to come to an end. To develop a new, and somewhat unexpected, new purpose for the mine, a research team recently launched a pilot project to investigate the potential of using the mine as a site for sustainable crop development. Thus, at a depth of no less than 660 meters. the researchers found a stable environment in which they believe crops can grow well if done under controlled conditions. At this depth, the temperature in the mine is constantly stable between 18 and 20 degrees Celsius throughout the year. Since July, researchers have been testing the cultivation of potatoes as well as nettles in the mine. The crops grown are illuminated with LED light bulbs of the Finnish company Valoya, producer and supplier of LED grow lights. Continue reading
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.