‘Challenge is to guarantee quality of potatoes,’ says trader in Belgium

The potato market in Europe is still under pressure because of the dry weather. “The rain that fell in recent days, is a bit too late. The damage has been done. Some varieties will recover somewhat, but yields will be low. Yields are between 15 and 30 tonnes, and that’s very disappointing,” says Bart Nemegheer of De Aardappelhoeve in Belgium. It’s difficult to fulfil the contracts on the market, because growers don’t have the potatoes. “Last week there was a meeting between industry and the potato sector, and it was decided to relax quality requirements somewhat. People are looking for a solution, but this year is just going to be problematic.” Because of the extreme heat, the sprout dormancy was interrupted, says Nemegheer, “resulting in a worse storability. It will be a challenge to guarantee quality up to the end of the season.” Read more

France: Historic low potato yields expected

As the early potato season comes to an end in France, early potatoes and the new crops are now taking over. The first available data indicate, for the moment, yields down by about 7% compared to the five-year average. More potatoes were planted: + 3.6% in France and + 1% for the 5 NEPG countries. While average planting dates were later, following the adverse weather conditions during the spring for a number of weeks, the general growth of potatoes were negatively affected. Plants are now in general slowing down as far as growth is concerned and this will limit any chance of a higher average yield developing in the weeks to come. A final total harvest of between 5.2 and 5.7 million tons is expected, with irrigated fields around 13 tons per ha higher than un-irrigated areas. Some producers of processing potatoes may not be able to honour their contract commitments with processors as far as volume and quality are concerned. The starch sector is experiencing similar problems, both in terms of total volume as well as quality. Virtually no starch potatoes are irrigated. (Source: UNPT. News in French here

Dutch and Belgian potato representatives meet to discuss current situation in the potato sector

The extreme weather conditions of recent months caused a commotion in the potato sector in Europe. Many growers suffered damages, resulting in lower yields this year. In various media outlets, the re-negotiation of contracts between growers and the processing industry has recently been mentioned frequently. This is why parties from both the Dutch and Belgian potato sectors came together to discuss this and to voice their worries. “VAVI has been in contact with LTO to discuss the situation on the potato market more than once, but this time we met physically. However, the discussion was blown out of proportion by the media,” says Hylke Brunt of the VAVI in the Netherlands. LTO wants to renegotiate contracts between growers and the processing industry to compensate for costs of irrigation, for example. In Belgium, the organization Belgapom met with Agrofront and three Belgian agricultural organisations.  Continue reading

Heavy rain, humid conditions and threat of potato blight forecast for Ireland

Weather outlook: Heavy rain, humid conditions and threat of potato blight forecastUnsettled weather conditions are in store this week for Ireland with a mixture of sunny spells, heavy rain, rising temperatures and humid conditions expected countrywide, according to Met Eireann. The national meteorological service has reiterated its Status Yellow warning that current conditions are conducive to the spread of potato blight – which it expects is “likely to develop” in parts of west Ulster later today (August 14). In its latest farming commentary, Met Eireann said it is likely that a spell of rain on Wednesday (August 15) will bring “significant rainfall amounts” to all parts of the country resulting in above average rainfall amounts. It is anticipated that the rain will extend eastwards throughout the day bringing a “steady fall” of rain across the country. The rain will clear to showers on Wednesday evening. Highest temperatures are due to reach between 17° and 21° early in the day – with moderate to fresh southerly winds veering southwesterly with the clearing rain and introducing cooler, fresher conditions. Read more

Crop alert issued: North-Western European potato crop will be ‘much lower with quality concerns’, says grower group NEPG

In a press release issued today, the grower organization NEPG (North-Western European Potato Growers) says that it is now becoming clear that the 2018 potato crop will be much lower and quality issues will be a main challenge throughout North-Western Europe. The NEPG represents potato growers in Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, France and the UK. “Extreme record drought conditions and exceptionally high temperatures are at the order of the day all over the main potato growing countries in Europe,” the organization says in the release. “Not even 50 % of the North-Western European potato acreage can be irrigated, and in spite of the high cost, irrigation pumps are working day and night. But in all countries restrictions for the use of water have been imposed by regional administrations.” The unfavourable conditions will also effect the yield for seed potatoes, the NEPG says.  Continue reading

Australian drought: Devastating impact of worst drought in living memory across New South Wales

Harry Taylor plays with the bones of dead livestock on his family farm. The worst drought ever recorded is sweeping large parts of in particular eastern Australia. The entire Australian state of New South Wales (NSW) has been declared in drought after a drier-than-expected June and July.  The entire state of New South Wales is effectively, and now officially, drought-declared. There is virtually no fodder left for livestock. June and July have been much drier than expected, resulting in failing crops, water shortages and a diminishing supply of fodder to sustain stock, Australian Primary Industries Minister Niall Blair said. “Producers are now faced with some very difficult decisions on whether to graze sown crops or rely on potential rainfall in the next two months in order to increase yield production.” A farmer has shared a horrifying image of a standing kangaroo skeleton to demonstrate the devastating impact of the drought on wildlife. It’s not just those on the land who are feeling the pinch, however. Across the state, businesses in rural and regional centres are reporting a downturn in business as belts are tightened. Read more. And more

Heat wave in North America: Podcast on ‘keeping your potatoes happy and healthy during the summer heat’

Image result for yara toppotato north americaFertilizer company Yara North America recently launched a podcast initiative to provide growers with updated agronomic advice, production and market insights, and more. In the latest podcast, specialists from Yara discuss how the potato crop is dealing with the current heat wave experienced in North America at this time. In this podcast, Jimmy Ridgeway, Crop Nutrition Solution Brand Manager of Yara’s Toppotato is joined by Steve Petrie, director of agronomic services at Yara in North America, and Shawn McIver, regional sales manager for Atlantic Canada to discuss heat stress and how growers can possibly mitigate that.  Continue reading

The drought issue: European-wide drought threatens harvests from Sweden to the Czech Republic

Image result for European Drought Threatens Harvests From Sweden to the Czech RepublicFor farmers in central and northern Europe, this summer’s unusually high temperatures aren’t just uncomfortable, they are putting their harvests at risk, The Guardian reported. The drought, caused by high temperatures and low rainfall since May 2018, is the worst in recent memory for the region, according to The Guardian. “Older families around me are comparing this to 1976,” 25-year-old Dutch farmer Iris Bouwers told The Guardian. “My dad can’t remember any drought like this.” Bouwers said her family stood to lose €100,000, as their potato crop is likely to fall by 30 percent, and their savings won’t cover the loss because of an investment made in a pig stable. They aren’t the only ones.  Continue reading

James Hutton Institute: New findings could lead to climate-resilient potato varieties in future

Image result for james hutton potatoes in practiceResearch at the James Hutton Institute in Scotland has led to the discovery of genetic variations which can help protect potato crop yields at high temperature, potentially providing potato breeders with a valuable tool in their quest to create varieties resilient to heat stress. The findings were discussed by Dr Mark Taylor at the Potatoes in Practice 2018 event this week. Stress-resistant crops can be an important resource to preserve food security in the face of increased temperatures, such as those brought about by the recent UK heatwave. Dr Taylor said: ““Heat tolerant varieties are especially important for Scottish seed exports to growing markets in warm countries. Although most potato varieties are sensitive to heat there is significant variation in response to heat stress between different potato cultivars, and recent research at the Hutton has led to the discovery of genetic variations which can help protect potato crop yields at high temperature.” Recent leaps in the understanding of genomics, genetics and crop science, funded by the Scottish Government’s Strategic Research Fund, have made this type of genetic screening possible. Read more

The drought issue: Belgian potato fry processors alarmed as heat hampers production; Bintje variety much affected

FriesSpudnik News report earlier today that Belgium’s early season potato crop has already been reduced by about 30% due to the current European-wide heatwave, which especially damaged the size of the potatoes and the roughness of their skins. The ongoing unusually hot weather in Belgium has already ridden roughshod over the Bintje potato variety, a staple in the production of fries in that country. With the heatwave showing no signs of abating, Belgian fry makers are concerned that the Bintje variety cannot be handled as usual by processing peeling machines due to the roughness of their skins and small average size caused by the drought. Bernard Lefevre, president of Unafri-Navefri, the Belgian association overlooking the production of fries, said that “prices have already increased and potatoes will be smaller… “We are hopeful. Frites are essential. It is vital. It is part of our culture. It’s more than a product — it’s a symbol of Belgium.” Read more

The drought issue: Tension developing between Dutch potato farmers and french fry processors

Dutch potato growers and potato processing companies will start talks on Friday to determine who is to pay for the problems with this year’s harvest due to the consequences of the drought, Dutch broadcaster NOS (Nederlandse Omroep Stichting) reports. Farmers want processors to share in the cost of irrigation. Some 80% of the Dutch potato crop is sold under contract to potato processors, in particular the french fry processors who, on their part, contract with big fast food chains such as MacDonalds and KFC. Contracts are not in the favour of farmers this year, though.  Continue reading

The drought issue: Potato growers in Ireland facing unprecedented sprouting problem

The consequences of the extreme temperatures and moisture deficits experienced earlier in the year have become evident this week as significant areas of potato crops are now sprouting. Substantial stress was placed on potato crops during the hot weather, which limited both canopy development and tuber bulking. With the onset of cooler, wetter conditions, daughter tubers have now broken dormancy and developed sprouts as they themselves switch to reproductive mode. Sprouted tubers have been discovered in fields across the country, stretching from Cork to Donegal. Every variety, including Roosters, Queens, Kerr’s Pinks, Maris Piper and Golden Wonder, are being affected. In severe cases, sprouts have elongated to six inches or more and are now developing granddaughter tubers, a process known as chain tuberisation. Read more

The drought issue: Canadian specialist shares information on second growth of potato tubers due to heat and drought stress

Dr Eugenia Banks is a potato specialist and works as consultant for the Ontario Potato Board in Canada. In a recent newsletter, she notes that second growth of potato tubers is a physiological potato problem induced by soil temperatures of 24 degrees Celcius or above, especially when coupled with water stress. “These two factors interact to limit the tuber growth rate causing second growth,” Dr Banks says. “Inadequate soil moisture alone does not result in the initiation of second growth. Heat and drought have prevailed during the 2018 Ontario growing season, which explains why second growth has been reported in some fields this season.” She points out that potato varieties differ in their susceptibility to second growth. Continue reading

The drought issue: Earth is ‘1C away from Hothouse State that threatens the future of humanity’

Scientists have said the planet will reach a "Hothouse" state if global temperatures reach 2C above pre-industrial levelsThe Earth’s global temperature is 1C away from a climatic tipping point that threatens the future of humanity, scientists have warned. Experts added that the planet is just decades away from the event that would trigger runaway global warming. The threshold will be reached when average global temperatures are only around 2C higher than they were in pre-industrial times, research suggests. The findings show that the Earth’s temperature is already half way there. If the tipping point is reached it would create a “Hothouse Earth” state of uncontrollable climate change.  Continue reading

The drought issue: European heat wave as seen from space and its effect on crops

We can feel it, hear it and we can even see it from space. Europe is hit severely by a heat wave. Everybody is sharing images and comparisons of landscapes before and during the drought connected to this heat wave. But what is actually going on? How extreme is it? And most importantly, what is the impact on our agricultural sector? Bart Deronde at VITO in Belgium provides answers to these and other questions regarding the drought in an article published earlier today. Since early spring Belgium and large parts of north-western Europe are facing one of the most intense regional droughts of the past decades. Hot high-pressure air above North America, Europe and Asia are trapped and are blocking low-pressure systems that would bring cooler air and rainfall. The anomaly of precipitation today is similar to the drought of 1976. For the summer crops, such as maize and potatoes for example, the drought is hitting them in the flowering and yield formation stages. These are very sensitive stages in plant development, leading for sure to an irreversible negative impact on the final yield. Read more