Ireland’s Meade family ‘gleaning’ up to keep sustainability at the core

Meade Potato Company in Ireland won on the double at the recent Food and Drink Business Awards, taking home the ‘Fresh Produce Company of the Year’ and ‘Sustainable Factory of the Year’ awards. The family firm’s Robert Devlin and Eleanor Meade rushed to the awards ceremony on Wednesday evening, September 5, after a busy afternoon spent ‘gleaning’, a joint initiative with FoodCloud community foodbank and Lidl Ireland corporate social responsibility (CSR) volunteers. ‘Gleaning’ is the collecting of produce that has been left behind in the field after the harvesting has been done, according to Jeni Meade, marketing communications manager at Meade Potato Company. It is a word that crops up in the bible in the context of asking that the ‘gleanings’ of a field be given to the needy.  “‘Gleaning’ is currently very popular in the US and UK but has yet to become that widespread in Ireland,” she says. Read more

Specialists urge Canadian potato growers to mind soil management

Soil advocates want potato growers to bump soil management up their priority list. Marla Riekman, soil management specialist with Manitoba Agriculture, pitched soil management principles to growers and agronomists at Carberry’s Canada-Manitoba Crop Diversification Centre potato tour in the province of Manitoba, Aug. 14. The root crop, by its nature, involves disturbing soil, something that soil health advocates are quick to argue against in other crops, pointing to detrimental impacts on soil microbe activity, soil structure and increased risk of erosion. Potato producers, however, have little choice but to dig under the surface, and any management plan must work around that reality. University of Manitoba’s David Lobb told the Manitoba Co-operator that “root crop harvesting, like potatoes, will cause as much tillage erosion as all other forms of tillage combined.” Riekman and Manitoba Agriculture crop nutrition expert, John Heard, urged producers to consider cover crops after harvest to minimize the risk of blowing. Read more

Global Affairs Canada, Mccain support potato variety development in Andean countries

Related imageA marriage of scientific knowledge and traditional practice has led to the development of three highly nutritious, robust, and productive yellow potato varieties in the Andean region. Researchers from Colombia and Canada are working with public and private sector partners to increase production and consumption of this nutritious and all-natural food staple across Colombia and other Andean countries, particularly Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador. This is a partnership between the Universidad Nacional de Colombia and McGill University in Canada, which developed the improved varieties, with support from private sector organizations, including Campo Vivo (McCain) and others. Malnutrition and iron deficiency are prevalent among many rural Colombians, especially young children. That is expected to change with the introduction of three high quality yellow potato cultivars selected by farmers, breeders and scientists. The initiative will benefit at least 1.5 million consumers.  Continue reading

British potato grower improves yields and soil quality significantly with green waste compost

Tony Bambridge is increasing his potato yields and improving his light Norfolk soils by the use of green waste compost, which is especially important in this summer’s dry weather. Potato yields are about 6-7% ahead since he started applying the compost six years ago, while his soils are more resilient, water retentive and workable. The compost has helped build the indices of key nutrients, such as phosphate and potash, and increase organic matter levels in his sandy soils by 0.5%, which were typically 1.5-2.5% before compost was applied. “We are feeding the crop the natural way, creating a sponge to absorb water, adding organic matter to improve soil biology, helping the workability of soils and making them more resilient,” he says.  Continue reading

Walkers to help recycle crisp packets

Gary Lineker has been the face of Walkers for 24 years. Campaigners say that the change by the market‑leading would have a huge impact on the industryBritain’s biggest crisp manufacturer is promising to make its bags easier to recycle after being threatened with a boycott by environmental campaigners. Managers at Walkers crisps, which is owned by PepsiCo, yesterday met Geraint Ashcroft, who organised a petition signed by 300,000 people calling for the company to use recyclable packaging. The bags are currently made from layers of plastic and aluminium which prolong the life of the crisps but are very rarely recycled because of the difficulty of separating the materials. Most crisp manufacturers use similar bags, but Walkers is by far the biggest company, producing 11 million bags a day. Crisp bags are one of the most common items dropped as litter. Read more

R.D. Offutt Farms and environmentalists’ potato war in Minnesota may have hit turning point

Maybe it’s just a breather, but the long-simmering controversy between the R.D. Offutt Farms’ potato field expansion project and environmentalists concerned about groundwater and lake pollution in Minnesota may have come to an end or at least reached a turning point. After Minnesota’s Department of Natural Resources gave a two-week notice last week that the Fargo-based company’s irrigation water well permits in some of the eight northern Minnesota counties it operates in would require an environmental study, the company announced Wednesday, Aug. 1, that it has withdrawn its request for the final three permits. The company had originally, years ago, asked for many more permits when it first announced its expansion plans, but their requests slowly dwindled. Offutt is one of the region’s biggest operators, with about a third of the company’s 60,000 acres of irrigated potatoes nationwide grown on nine farms in Minnesota. It also has operations in North Dakota and five other states with processing plants in four states. Read more

New biopesticide and fungicide unveiled at Biocontrols USA West

Related imageSeipasa, a company specializing in the formulation, development, and marketing of botanical-based solutions (biopesticides, biostimulants, and fertilizers), debuted the new biopesticide, Seican, in the U.S. at the BiocontrolsSM USA West Conference, where the latest trends concerning biological pest control were unveiled. Seican is a new fungicide and insecticide for pest control and diseases. Developed from an exclusive formulation of botanical-based substances, Seican provides a powerful knock-down effect against a large number of species of powdery mildew, botrytis, insects, and mites. Plus, it boasts a multi-site mode of action. Continue reading

Dutch retail chain working to boost sustainability and biodiversity in the Netherlands

Image result for Albert Heijn: wild about potato sustainabilityDutch retailer Albert Heijn has signed a cooperation agreement with some of the Netherlands’ largest agricultural companies to enhance biodiversity around potato production in the country and boost the industry’s sustainability. The group’s vice-president for produce, canned food, flowers and plants Said Belhassan was on hand to underline its commitment during a special signing ceremony, joining representatives from leading potato companies Agrico, Leo de Kock and Nedato, and supported by consultancy firm CLM and Natuurmonumenten, a group that acquires and protects nature reserves. The project will see Natuurmonumenten send special teams to help growers improve the natural environment by creating special grassy areas on the edges of their potato fields that increase the presence of wild flowers, birds and insects.  Continue reading

The Netherlands: Tiny country; agricultural giant – showing what the future of farming could look like

Related imageIn a potato field near the Netherlands’ border with Belgium, Dutch farmer Jacob van den Borne is seated in the cabin of an immense harvester before an instrument panel worthy of the starship Enterprise. From his perch 10 feet above the ground, he’s monitoring two drones—a driverless tractor roaming the fields and a quadcopter in the air—that provide detailed readings on soil chemistry, water content, nutrients, and growth, measuring the progress of every plant down to the individual potato. Van den Borne’s production numbers testify to the power of this “precision farming,” as it’s known. The global average yield of potatoes per acre is about nine tons. Van den Borne’s fields reliably produce more than 20. That copious output is made all the more remarkable by the other side of the balance sheet: inputs. Almost two decades ago, the Dutch made a national commitment to sustainable agriculture under the rallying cry “Twice as much food using half as many resources.” Since 2000, van den Borne and many of his fellow farmers have reduced dependence on water for key crops by as much as 90 percent. How on Earth have the Dutch done it? Read the full article in National Geographic

Growing food for a growing planet: Three perspectives on modern American farming

Image result for Growing food for a growing planet: Three perspectives on American farmingToday’s agriculture is going through an important revolution. From tech breakthroughs like smart irrigation to robot-enabled harvesting, the industry is using new innovations to help feed a growing population. And it’s a big job. The United Nations says global food output must increase by 60 percent over the next three decades to keep up with the boom. As modern farming evolves, a diverse range of players is stepping up to this challenge with unique approaches to growing sustainable food. There’s Bill Horan, a farmer for decades, who continuously adapts and embraces new technologies, with an eye toward helping future generations carry on the farming tradition. Jay Hill is bringing a fresh sense of entrepreneurship to his traditional farming practice and using social media to show the world all the hard work—and fun—that are part of farming life. And Abbey Carver, an agronomist and recent college grad, is part of the next generation of tech-enabled growers. She mixes her knowledge of ag-tech and hard science with a passion for the land to help keep the world sustainably fed. Read about these people’s perspectives on modern farming in America in this Washington Post article

The new ‘plastic’: These potato based biodegradable bags dissolve in water, burn like paper, and are edible

envigreen1Bags made of potatoes could replace plastic as the biodegradable and recyclable alternative for grocery bags in India – a country where slow yet firm steps are being taken towards getting rid of plastic grocery bags. These environment friendly bags are manufactured and distributed in several cities in India by startup business EviGreen. The bags look like plastic bags, but are made of materials like natural potato and tapioca 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.  Continue reading

All about sustainability: Lamb Weston / Meijer supports potato growers with sustainable development plan

Sustainable potato production with healthy yields. This is the objective with which Lamb Weston / Meijer wants to support the company’s contract growers. This is why the Dutch based potato processor developed a comprehensive ‘Sustainable Agriculture’ plan in collaboration with the Center for Agriculture and Environment (CLM) in the Netherlands, which is now being turned into practice in collaboration with contract growers. The Sustainable Agriculture plan was launched this year in the Netherlands and will be rolled out internationally in the coming years. On Tuesday, July 10, Lamb Weston / Meijer officially presented its Sustainable Agriculture Plan to the outside world at the arable crops farm ‘Monnikenhof’ of grower Arnold Timmerman in Kattendijke, Zeeland. The central theme of Sustainable Agriculture is soil health. “That is the core of this plan, which is aimed at making sustainable agriculture commercially feasible,” says Dirk Peters, agronomist at Lamb Weston / Meijer. Read more

Potatoey wrap: Printing specialist introduces eco-friendly magazine wrap made from potato starch

Birmingham-based direct mail fulfilment and print management services provider bakergoodchild has introduced a compostable and eco-friendly magazine polywrap produced from potato starch from waste potatoes. The biodegradable mailing wrapping material is being used by a number of bakergoodchild customers. The decomposable magazine packaging wrapper carries no oil-based materials, plastics or harmful toxins. bakergoodchild sales director Adam Stafford: said: “…we have introduced a potato starch based polywrap, which is 100% biodegradable and provides a premium look and feel. As a brand we are fully behind improving the environment and are working with partners and customers to achieve various goals, which has resulted in a good uptake in using the potato starch based polywrap.” Full article

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.

‘First of its kind’ programme to collaborate with British farmers to improve soil health

A key focus of the programme is to explore ways to prevent farmland soil being lost to waterwaysYorkshire Water and Future Food Solutions have announced plans for a collaborative land-based programme that will see farmers, global food & drink brands, non-government organisations & supply chain partners working together to improve soil quality in river catchment areas around Yorkshire. It is set to be the first of its kind in the UK. Improving soil health is recognised internationally as a core requirement to maintaining sustainable food production around the world. The project will identify new ways to improve soil management that reduces erosion, maintains moisture content and increases agricultural productivity. It follows the release of a report which states that £10 million pounds a year in England is needed to ensure the agricultural sector is still productive at the end of the century. The WWF report says soil is being destroyed at approximately 10 times the rate it is being created, costing £1.2 billion a year in England and Wales. Read more