Bayer launches digital farming solution for field crops

Image result for bayer potatoBayer has launched its xarvio Field Manager in five countries – Germany, France, Austria, Poland, and Ukraine. The new digital solution is for now available in field crops such as potato, wheat, barley, sugar beet and oilseed rape. Further expansion to other crops and countries is expected in the coming months. Field Manager will support European farmers in growing healthy crops by providing recommendations about the right dosage, timing and place of crop protection applicaton. With its digital solutions, Bayer is paving the way for a new agriculture revolution that makes farming more precise, efficient and sustainable. “xarvio Field Manager will enable farmers to be more pro-active in managing their crops and be a step ahead of pests and diseases,” says Andree-Georg Girg, Head of Commercial Operations Digital Farming at Bayer.  Continue reading

New report: Consumers are moving away from old definitions of healthy potato snacks

Related imageSnacking is central to the strategy of food companies, with explosive growth in the number of new such products launched between 2010 and 2017: 125% in Europe and 47% in North America. According to a new report from New Nutrition Business, Strategies in Healthy Snacking, this also means that the healthy snacking segment is now an intensely competitive and crowded. “Companies have to work even harder to create a product that brings a real point of difference for the consumer,” says Julian Mellentin, author of the report. Commenting for potatobusiness.com on what consumers are looking for when they ask for healthy potato snacks, Mellentin says: “Consumers are moving away from old definitions of healthy such as reduced fat and reduced salt – reduced salt is of interest only to a minority of people aged 65+. Potato snacks are primarily about indulgence and pleasure and bringing health benefits mustn’t lose sight of this fact.” The report outlines 10 strategies for success in healthy snacking, illustrated with 15 case studies of healthy snacking brands in the US and Europe. More on Potatobusiness.com

Embracing technology key to Australian potato grower’s success

Image result for Scott Rockliff Australian potato growerScott Rockliff knows a thing or two about potato growing. For six generations, the Rockliff family has been growing potatoes along the north-west coast of Tasmania in Sassafras, a 200-year old town renowned for its food and wine production. A lot has changed since Scott Rockliff’s ancestors established the original farm in the 1800s. Nowadays, innovation is a must – understanding the latest in technology required for potato growing and thinking outside the square to produce a consistent crop is essential. Scott says the biggest issue potato growers have faced over the years is that the earnings from their product have stagnated. In an attempt to combat this challenge, Scott has embraced technology on his farm. He added that it was important to not only embrace tractors and ground working equipment but other larger inventions such as the Robot for Intelligent Perception and Precision Application (RIPPA), which the University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics developed for weed management in the vegetable industry. Experimenting with equipment and building on-farm machinery are activities that Scott enjoys. Read the full article on p20 of the latest Potatoes Australia magazine

Black dot a particular scourge of fresh market potato crops in GB this season

Black dot has been a particular scourge of fresh market crops this season, according AHDB Potatoes in the UK. Delayed harvesting has encouraged disease spread, increasing the crop’s exposure to infected soil and high levels of moisture. Here’s a reminder of why the problem has been so widespread. Black dot is a disease caused by Colletotrichum coccodes. There is evidence that microsclerotia (resting bodies) of the fungus can survive for many years in soil due, in part, to alternate hosts. It can infect weeds such as nettle, field bindweed and shepherd’s purse.  Survival is further enhanced by the presence of potato volunteers. Black dot can be both seed and soil-borne. Although seed-borne infection can cause disease in progeny tubers, soil inoculum poses a greater threat. Soil contamination is the main source of disease in a progeny crop. Disease risk should be based on evaluation of seed infection and, importantly, soil contamination for which a soil test is available. Black dot is commonly confused with silver scurf (Helminthosporium solani). More in the latest Storage Bulletin from AHDB

McDonald’s Russia turns to local fries from new processing plant, citing Western sanction woes

Related imageFrench fries at McDonald’s restaurants from Moscow to Murmansk will be Russian from now on, as the American fast-food chain turns to homegrown potatoes to deal with ruble volatility caused by fluctuating oil prices and Western sanctions. McDonald’s Corp, which opened in Russia in 1990 as the Soviet Union collapsed, has been gradually turning to local ingredients in its Russian outlets for everything from Big Macs to chicken burgers since it opened its doors there. But till now it had relied on frozen French fries from the Netherlands and Poland as Russian spuds weren’t quite right. Now a new plant near Lipetsk, a city 450 km (280 miles) south of Moscow, using potatoes grown on local farms will supply frozen fries to the chain of 651 outlets across Russia under a long-term contract, raising the share of the chain’s locally sourced products to 98 per cent. Globe and Mail report. Reuters report

Weed control goes digital: Advanced spot-spraying precision technology in development

Weed scientist Andrew McKenzie-Gopsill with digital camera, sensor and controller mechanism that can be  mounted on a sprayer and tractor to read crop plant locations.Researchers are combining new digital tools, computer technologies and machine learning to bring cost-effective weed control solutions to the field. This weed control solution is being designed as an advanced spot-spraying precision technology that will help farmers reduce input costs and add another management tool to their integrated management systems. “We are developing a high-tech ground-based sensor technology as another cost-effective precision agriculture tool for weed control in potatoes and other crops,” says Andrew McKenzie-Gopsill, weed scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in Prince Edward Island. This five-year project was initiated in 2017 and is still in the early stages of data collection. The whole control system would be mounted to an existing sprayer, including a small inexpensive camera mounted above the canopy, and a mini computer to connect to the sprayer control system to control which nozzles are turned on or off. More

Biofertilizers 2018: Finally making inroads?

Related imageAlthough they may seem like newer entries into the agricultural marketplace, some of the products that are part of the biofertilizers sector have been around for a long time. “Considering some of these products have actually been around for over 20 years, we are just starting to recognize their potential,” observes Dr. Chris Underwood, Chemist and Product Development Manager for AgroLiquid. Of course, part of the reason could be because of some confusion as to what constitutes a biofertilizer vs. a biostimulant. According to most of the experts CropLife® magazine spoke with, biofertilizers are defined as microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi that can increase nutrient availability and utilization by plants. They are oftentimes referred to as a “sub-category” of biostimulants. “Common examples of biofertilizers include mycorrhizai fungi, rhizobium, and plant growth promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR),” says Jane Fife, Chief Science Officer for 3Bar Biologics. More

Mixed results for US potato exports, but strong growth in frozen sector

Related imageU.S. exports of fresh potatoes were down 7 percent by volume but up 27 percent by value to $13.6 million in February 2018 compared to 2017. The volume of exports of fresh potatoes (table-stock and chip-stock) were caused by the 33 percent decline to the largest market, Canada. Despite the higher prices, exports of fresh potatoes to Mexico were up 34 percent while Japan (chip-stock) grew by 17 percent and Taiwan was up 95 percent. Frozen potatoes saw strong growth with volume up 6 percent and the value up 6 percent as well, to over $90 million. Exports of dehydrated potatoes were off 12 percent by volume and 6 percent by value for a monthly total of just under $14 million. The increase in frozen exports was driven by 20 percent volume increase to Mexico, 38 percent increase to Central America, 64 percent increase to Taiwan and a 23 percent increase to the Philippines. More

Hi-tech: New imaging technology to spot diseases and infestations at an earlier stage

The expected benefits of adopting the equipment could have a significant impact on overall crop yieldA new type of imaging system for use in agriculture, designed to be far less expensive than existing technology and to increase crop yield, is being developed in the UK. Academics and the farming industry have teamed up to develop a new type of hyperspectral imaging (HSI) system. The UK government-funded collaboration has the potential to introduce an affordable spectral imaging technology to help agricultural businesses monitor and maximise crop production in fields and greenhouses. The sensors in development are expected to be up to 90% cheaper than equivalent equipment currently on the market. It is anticipated that adopting the technology will allow farmers to monitor various crop attributes including plant health, hydration levels and disease indicators. As a result, it is envisaged that farmers will be able to: optimise the impact of fertilisation; save water by employing more efficient irrigation methods; and, critically, spot diseases and infestations at an earlier stage, allowing them to avoid blights. Report by FarmingUK

Trending: Biostimulants gaining ground

Related imageConsumers have stepped up their demand for food produced more sustainably, with fewer “hard” chemicals and more compounds from nature. Biostimulants are helping increasing numbers of growers answer that call. “Growers are embracing these products rapidly as they search for ‘greener’ options to produce their crops,” says Rad Page, Chief Commercial Officer for PlantResponse. “They’re also demanding that these products have solid science behind them and produce a consistent return on their investment. We think these expectations are driving the increased investment and innovation in this market segment.” The global biostimulant market is currently valued at approximately $2 billion, reports Dr. John Bailey, National Row Crops Product Manager with Timac Agro USA. “Europe has the largest share at around 45%, North America and Asia have approximately 20% each, and Latin America comes in at around 15%.” Many in the industry believe there is a lack of understanding of what these products do.  Continue reading

Report: ‘5.4 billion UK meal occasions features fresh potatoes eaten at home; 2.8 billion featuring frozen potato products’

Image result for british potatoesAHDB Potatoes in the UK recently published its latest annual Market Intelligence Report. In this highly informative report, it is noted that the GB market is increasingly influenced by the European potato market. Volatility in potato supply and prices, due to issues such as weather, means that imported European product plays a part in the GB market. In 2016/17, of non-EU countries, the UK imported the majority of fresh potatoes from Israel and processed potato products from Canada, South Africa and the USA. For non-EU exports, the UK continued to export the largest amount of seed potatoes to Egypt, fresh potatoes to Norway and processed potatoes to Nigeria in the 2016/17 season. According to the report, AHDB conducts a consumer tracker with YouGov to monitor attitudes toward potatoes on a six-monthly basis. The most recent findings of this survey show that 76% of consumers eat potatoes on a weekly basis and when asked, 71% of people surveyed said they considered potatoes to be healthy.  Continue reading

Wisconsin’s ‘Healthy Grown’ potato program advances growers’ use of bio-intensive IPM

Image result for Wisconsin Healthy Grown Potato ProgramWisconsin’s “Healthy Grown” potato program has been thriving in advancing innovative, ecologically sound production systems and currently, around 8000 acres of fresh market potatoes are grown under stringent environmental protocols. “Healthy Grown” works to advance growers’ use of biointensive IPM, reduce reliance on high-risk pesticides, and to enhance ecosystem conservation efforts through the high-bar, sustainable potato and vegetable standards. In a series of videos published on YouTube, the process and background of the development of “Healthy Grown” are described, as well as improvements for the program. Contact Deana Knuteson (dknuteson@wisc.edu) for more details. Go here to watch the three short videos on YouTube

Focus on Soil: World renowned soil ecologist explains the life-giving link between carbon and healthy topsoil

Image result for soilTo the pressing worldwide challenge of restoring soil carbon and rebuilding topsoil, the Australian soil ecologist Dr. Christine Jones offers an accessible, revolutionary perspective for improving landscape health and farm productivity. For several decades, Jones has helped innovative farmers and ranchers implement regenerative agricultural systems that provide remarkable benefits for biodiversity, carbon sequestration, nutrient cycling, water management, and productivity.  During an interview by Tracy Frisch of Acres U.S.A Magazine, Jones said that people have for long confused the weathering of rock, which is a very, very slow process, with the building of topsoil, which is altogether different. Most of the ingredients for new topsoil come from the atmosphere — carbon, hydrogen, oxygen and nitrogen. “The issue we’re facing is that too much of the carbon that was once in a solid phase in the soil has become a gas. That could be dangerous for the human species. Climate change is just one aspect. Food security, the nutrient density of food and the water-holding capacity of the soil are also very potent reasons for keeping carbon in a solid phase in the soil.” More

Low-carb potatoes on the rise around the world

Image result for low carb potatoesLow-carb potatoes are getting attention throughout the world. In recent years, a number of varieties were introduced that are lower in carbs than conventional potatoes. Agrico introduced new potato variety Carisma a few years ago, and this contains naturally slowly digestive carbs. When developing the variety, Agrico worked with partners in Australia. Carisma is available at supermarket chains Albert Heijn and Emté in the Netherlands. Carisma is also being grown in Canada. The Scottish company Grampian Growers announced a new potato variety in 2015. Research shows the Gemson potato is similar to the Maris Peer potato regarding nutritional values, but that the Gemson has fewer carbohydrates. Potandon Produce from Idaho introduced a new potato variety in the autumn of 2017, and this potato – the CarbSmart potato – is said to contain 55 per cent fewer carbs than rice or pasta. In New Zealand, a new low-carb potato of T&G Global – Lotato – became a success within a few weeks. Years ago, HZPC developed and introduced the Sunlite concept: Potatoes with 30 per cent fewer calories than regular potatoes. The concept was introduced in the US, Spain, Italy and Cyprus. More

Spore sampling project to alert growers of disease threat

A University of Idaho-led research team plans to start giving their state’s potato growers advanced warnings this season about the arrival of fungal pathogens, using a broad network of airborne spore samplers. Last summer, James Woodhall, the project’s lead and a University of Idaho (UI) assistant professor of plant pathology, and his colleagues evaluated samples collected by three spore samplers, based at their Parma, Kimberly and Aberdeen Extension centers, to prove the concept. This growing season, Woodhall said they’ll operate 14 samplers, stationed both at the UI facilities and near commercial potato fields spread from Parma through Tetonia. Woodhall intends to alert growers – initially via an email list and eventually by posting results on a special website – within a day of confirming the arrival of harmful potato pathogens including late blight, early blight, white mold, gray mold and brown spot. “It’s proven technology,” Woodhall said. “They’ve had success with this in Canada for late blight detection.” More