Applied Research: Ground-penetrating radar could help producers dig potatoes early

Dr. Dirk Hays, plant geneticist, is using ground-penetrating radar to test for early maturing potato varieties. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Kay Ledbetter)

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

Allowing Simplot’s GMO potatoes called ‘foolhardy’ by Council of Canadians

Leo Broderick

Leo Broderick has concerns about GMO potatoes (Council of Canadians)

The Council of Canadians is pressing the provincial government to keep genetically modified potatoes out of Prince Edward Island soil. Council chair Leo Broderick questions the science behind Innate generation 2 potatoes, and added that the Island. would be better off staying away from the controversy surrounding genetically modified food. Canadian officials approve Simplot’s second generation GMO potatoes last week. Broderick noted P.E.I. is already attracting attention as a producer of genetically modified salmon. “It would be foolhardy for the province to allow genetically engineered potatoes to be grown in the province,” said Broderick. “If we add genetically engineered potatoes we will have a very poor image and that’s not the kind of image that we want for the province.”  Continue reading

Scotland: China invests £3m for new potato research lab in collaboration with James Hutton Institute

The announcement of £3 million towards a new international laboratory for scientists from Dundee and China underlines Scotland’s global reputation for potato research at the Potatoes in Practice (PiP) event. The Chinese Government and leading potato processing company,  Xisen Potato Group have committed the funds to a collaboration with James Hutton Limited (JHL) to breed new varieties and research resistance to pests and diseases, tuber storage and potato processing. The shared facility is likely to be located in China’s Shandong province. Continue reading

Canada: Simplot’s new GMO potato drawing interest from Prince Edward Island farmers

Planting the Innate Generation 2 potato could mean much less spraying of pesticides.Some farmers on Prince Edward Island are excited about a new genetically-modified potato that’s designed to resist late blight, which could mean spraying less fungicide. The CFIA and Health Canada recently approved growing the Innate generation 2 potato, developed by the U.S.-based company J.R. Simplot. Generation 1 of the potatoes were less likely to bruise or go grey when peeled, but potato farmer Ray Keenan, owner of Rollo Bay Holdings, is much more excited about this blight resistant variety. “It’s amazing science, is what it is. It’s something like we’ve never seen before in the potato industry,” said Keenan. “It’s two things. It’s a cost saving but it’s also simply good stewardship if we could find a way of making this work.” Simplot plans to sell the seed at a cost on par with conventional seed initially, and then increase the price as time goes on and farmers see the cost savings from lower pesticide use. CBC report

Scottish potato seed exporters set to increase tonnage to Brazil and Kenya

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Scottish seed potatoes

Government representatives from Scotland and Brazil met in July to simplify the import classification requirements for seed potatoes. The game-changing meeting was organised and funded by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB). Brazil produces circa 3.6m tonnes of potatoes a year according to UN figures, however in terms of productivity yields are only two thirds of what is achieved by UK growers. Rob Burns, Head of Crops Export Market Development at AHDB said: “British seed potatoes are rightly renowned across the world. Not only for high health and high quality, but also for diversity, we have a great range of varieties which thrive in a range of conditions, be it damper cooler climates such as the UK, or warmer environments.” This agreement could set the path for a significant increase in the tonnage of British seed exported to Brazil, which is likely to help increase yields for the growers that plant them.Representatives from both countries will meet again in January to finalise discussions on removing requirement for disease testing on GB seed potatoes entering Brazil. Continue reading

Dutch organic sector unites against potato disease

On Tuesday morning, 25 Dutch organic potato breeders, growers, and big supermarket chains signed a unique agreement entitled “Expedited transition to more robust potato varieties”. With this agreement, the organic sector wants to find a sustainable solution for the devastating potato disease: Phytophthora. Bionext, the organic sector chain organisers took the initiative for this. The direct reason for the agreement is the large-scale damage this disease caused in 2016 to organically grown potatoes. Potatoes are prone to getting phytophthora and natural pesticides were found to be lacking. To speed up the process, the agreement partners have decided to give robust varieties preference in the breeding, growing and selling stages. In this way it will be possible to have 100% organic disease-resistant potatoes by 2020. More

Simplot: ‘154,000 fewer pesticide hectare-applications if all fresh potatoes in Canada had Innate® Generation 2 traits’

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. 

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Canada: Parkland Potato Varieties to host open day in Alberta

Parkland Seed PotatoesParkland Potato Varieties will be hosting it’s annual open day at the Crop Diversification Centre South in Brooks, Alberta on August 18th from 10 am to 2 pm.  The company will be showcasing several varieties during the field day, including processing, main market whites and yellows, reds, creamers and chipping varieties. Although they continue to sell the standard open varieties, like Russets, Shepodies and Atlantics, Parkland is seeing a steady increased interest from growers in private varieties, in particular fresh market yellows. According to Kirby Sawatzky, Director of Parkland, new processing and chipping varieties have greater bruise resistance and can be stored for longer periods of time. Continue reading

‘The Little Potato Company that could…’ – Canadian specialty company opens first U.S. potato-processing facility

Image result for angela santiago little potato companyMany parents might recall reading a book to their children called “The Little Engine that Could,” sometimes over and over again. It’s a story of a small train that tries its best to bring toys to children on the other side of a hill. The story of The Little Potato Company is somewhat like that… Angela Santiago, the company’s co-founder and chief executive officer, and her father and co-founder, Jacob (Jake) van der Schaaf, were told more than once that no one would want the small potatoes they were hoping to market, but that didn’t stop them from pursuing their dream. The Little Potato Co. celebrated the grand opening of its new U.S. processing facility in Wisconsin on July 27. The $20 million facility is building up steam to supply pint-sized potatoes to consumers across much of the country. The company specializes in creamer (baby/salad) potatoes – potatoes that mature at a smaller size than potatoes that are usually found in a grocery bag. Demand for the potatoes has grown exponentially since van der Schaaf came up with the idea a little more than 20 years ago and convinced his daughter to join him in the effort. Van der Schaaf, a Dutch immigrant, longed for the small creamer potatoes he had eaten as a youngster, so in 1996, he suggested to his daughter that they test out the market for little potatoes. More

Australia: Persistence pays off for Tasmanian seed-potato producer Agronico

Nothing happens quickly in the seed-potato business, but persistence has paid off for Agronico owner Julian Shaw. Mr Shaw, who describes himself as a mad scientist, started the business in 1985. Back then Agronico was focused more on production agronomy in crops such as onions but over time his interest in seed-potato production grew. Nowadays Agronico is one of the country’s biggest seed-potato producers – about 10,000 tonnes a year – and the only one using hydroponic mini tuber production. The company has 150 potato varieties in its collection and produces about 28 commercially. All the new varieties are imported as tissue cultures that must be grown out over about four generations before they can be used for commercial production. Hydroponic production allows the company to precisely control crop nutrition, producing evenly sized mini tubers and more of them. Ag Weekly report. Agronico was also in the news recently when they opened a new state of the art coolstore in Spreyton, Tasmania.

Canadian officials approve Simplot’s second generation GMO potatoes

Genetically Engineered Potatoes CanadaAssociated Press reports that three types of potatoes genetically engineered by J.R. Simplot to resist late blight are deemed safe for the environment and safe to eat, according to Canadian officials – who confirmed the approval of these potatoes on Thursday. The official approval by Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency means the Simplot potatoes can be imported, planted and sold in Canada. The company said it received approval letters from Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency in the last several days. Health Canada spokeswoman Renelle Briand confirmed the approvals to The Associated Press on Thursday. “We have no objection to the sale of food derived from J.R. Simplot Company’s” potatoes for human consumption, Karen McIntyre, director general of Health Canada, said in a letter sent on July 28 to the company. Canadian officials in two other letters sent on Monday approved the environmental release of planting the potatoes and using the potatoes for livestock feed. The three varieties of potato — the Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet and Atlantic — were approved by U.S. regulatory agencies in February. The company said the potatoes contain only potato genes and that the resistance to late blight comes from an Argentine variety of potato that naturally produced a defense.

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Peru: Potatoes, the ‘real gold’ of the Incas

Image result for peru potatoThe humble potato is known the world over, but native Peruvian varieties can look quite a bit different than most of us are used to. Some are red or blue, others are long and skinny. More then 4,500 potato varieties are grown in Peru. The wealth of varieties is a natural treasure that’s worth preserving, especially in the face of climate change, which is posing a serious threat for traditional potato cultivation in the country. Watch 7 min video. Also watch how Nelli Quisbe-Quisbe makes a delicious potato soup called sopa de moraya in the Peruvian city of Cusco.

British potatoes put roots down in Africa

British potatoes put roots down in AfricaA potato seed trial in Kenya has passed initial tests and the plants are now growing well in three locations in the country. The trials are the result of a 2016 agreement between the Scottish and Kenyan governments to test 10 potato varieties expected to thrive in hot, dry conditions. These included four free varieties – Hermes, Atlantic, Cara and Russet Burbank – and six commercial varieties. The UK Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) hopes to reach the end of the trials and approvals, and open the market fully, by early 2018. According to SASA, once British varieties are approved in Kenya, it could open access to neighbouring markets. This would include the 19-country Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (Comesa), of which Kenya is a member. More

The new low carb potato taking New Zealand by storm

A New Zealand low-carbohydrate potato has been on the market for just three weeks, but is already proving to be a major success. T & G Global say they discovered the new variety, which has been labelled the Lotato™, by chance. “It was bred in Holland by cross pollinating two existing varieties of potatoes,” Executive General Manager Andrew Keaney said. “They were cross pollinated because they were high yielding, they had really good appearance and really good flavour. As a natural occurrence, quite by chance, it was found they were 40 per cent lower in carbs. When we compare the Lotato™, we compare with two commonly known varieties which is the Agria and the Rua potato. They weren’t specifically bred to be low carb, it was just by chance.” More

US: Two new Russet varieties to be released soon

Jeanne Debons, executive director of the Potato Variety Management Institute, with potato varieties under her organization’s management at the recent University of Idaho Potato Conference in Pocatello, Idaho. PVMI is releasing two new varieties — Castle Russet and Echo Russet.Two new spud varieties are coming soon to the Pacific Northwest. Echo Russet and Castle Russet — developed by the Tri-State Potato Breeding Program that includes Oregon, Washington and Idaho — are just about ready to be released commercially, according to Sagar Sathuvalli with Oregon State University. Sathuvalli, a potato breeder at OSU’s Hermiston Agricultural Research and Experiment Center, discussed the traits of each variety with local growers during the station’s annual potato field day Wednesday. Both varieties boast high yields and good cooking quality, and can be used either for french fries or fresh market. Echo Russet — named for the nearby town — and Castle Russet are about to cross that finish line. The Capital Press reports that the Potato Variety Management Institute, which handles licensing and royalties for Tri-State varieties, has decided to release the latest creations in December. In February, Capital Press reported that officials representing the Idaho, Oregon and Washington potato breeding programs say they’re releasing a pair of new russet varieties that should help position the industry to cope with more stringent regulations on soil fumigants. The new varieties are billed as medium- to late-maturing potatoes appropriate for use in both the fresh market and processing, also having good culinary qualities and cold sweetening resistance, so they fry with a light color even after months in storage. Read more