A smarter way to use insecticides for wireworm control in potatoes

A smarter way to use insecticides for wireworm control in potatoes

Researchers are hoping growers will soon be able to use an innovative approach to control wireworms.

Faster identification of PVY resistance

Faster identification of PVY resistance

A virologist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC), in collaboration with breeders, has developed a way to speed up marker-assisted selection in the effort to identify potato virus Y (PVY) resistant material.

While there are no "silver bullets" for combating wireworm, with ongoing research, Island farmers do have more options.Dr. Christine Noronha, of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada, has unveiled an effective wireworm trap. "The trap is a very simple light trap, called the NELT. It uses a solar powered light source to attract the adults of wireworms, click beetles. The beetles walk to the light and fall into a cup buried in the ground under the light,"  Noronha explained.This is the first trap that catches female click beetles. Trapping the egg-laying females will gradually help reduce the wireworm population in the field. For the full story, click here. 
Examining the ancestors of the modern, North American cultivated potato has revealed a set of common genes and important genetic pathways that have helped spuds adapt over thousands of years. Cultivated potatoes, domesticated from wild Solanum species, a genetically simpler diploid (containing two complete sets of chromosomes) species, can be traced to the Andes Mountains in Peru, South America.Scientific explorer Michael Hardigan, formerly at MSU and now at the University of California-Davis, led the team of MSU and Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University scientists. Together, they studied wild, landrace (South American potatoes that are grown by local farmers) and modern cultivars developed by plant breeders. For the full story, click here.
The Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration have signed off on three new genetically modified (GMO) potato varieties from J.R. Simplot Company. The three new varieties, Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet, and Atlantic are said to be less prone to bruising and black spot, containing less asparagine, having enhanced cold storage capability, and resistant to late blight pathogens.Simplot believes the resistant varieties will reduce fungicide applications by up to 50 per cent. | READ MORE
For the first time, evidence of the zebra chip pathogen has been found in potato fields in southern Alberta.An infected potato psyllid insect carries the Lso (Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum) pathogen that can cause zebra chip disease in potato crops.Zebra chip has affected potato crops in the U.S., Mexico and New Zealand and caused millions of dollars in losses. Potatoes with zebra chip develop unsightly dark lines when fried, making affected potatoes unsellable.The first detection of Lso came from sampling cards collected at one site south of Highway 3, near Lethbridge, Alta. For the full story, click here. 
The potato person who said many years ago "A potato storage is not a hospital" was absolutely right. Diseased or bruised tubers do not get better in storage. Tubers bruised at harvest are easily invaded by soft rot or Fusarium dry rot, which can cause serious economic losses in storage.Harvest management, in large part, is bruise management. Bruising also affects tuber quality significantly. In order to harvest potatoes with minimum tuber damage, growers need to implement digging, handling and storage management practices that maintain the crop quality for as long as possible after harvest.Assuming all harvest and handling equipment are mechanically ready to harvest the crop with minimum bruising, there are several tips to preserve the quality of potatoes crop during harvest: Timely Vine Killing. Killing the vines when tubers are mature makes harvesting easier by reducing the total vine mass moving through the harvester. This allows an easier separation of tubers from vines. Timely Harvest. Potatoes intended for long term storage should not be harvested until the vines have been dead for at least 14 days to allow for full skin set to occur. Soil Moisture. Optimal harvest conditions are at 60-65% available soil moisture. Tuber Pulp Temperature. Optimal pulp temperatures for harvest are from 500F to 600F. Proper pulp temperature is critical; tubers are very sensitive to bruising when the pulp temperature is below 450F. If pulp temperatures are above 650F, tubers become very susceptible to soft rot and Pythium leak. Pulp temperatures above 70°F increase the risk of pink rot tremendously no matter how gently you handle the tubers if there is inoculum in the soil. Tuber Hydration. An intermediate level of tuber hydration results in the least bruising. Overhydrated tubers dug from wet soil are highly sensitive to shatter bruising especially when the pulp temperature is below 450F. In addition, tubers harvested from cold, wet soil are more difficult to cure and more prone to breakdown in storage. Slightly dehydrated tubers dug from dry soil are highly sensitive to blackspot bruising. Reducing Blackspot Bruising. Irrigate soil that is excessively dry before digging to prevent tuber dehydration and blackspot bruising. Bruise Detection Devices. Try to keep the volume of soil and tubers moving through the digger at capacity at all points of the machine. If bruising is noticeable, use a bruise detection device to determine where in the machinery the tubers are being bruised. Do not harvest potatoes from low, poorly drained areas of a field where water may have accumulated and/or dig tests have indicated the presence of tubers infected with late blight. Train all employees on how to reduce bruising. Harvester operators must be continually on the lookout for equipment problems that may be damaging tubers. Ideally, growers should implement a bruise management program that includes all aspects of potato production from planting through harvest. Harvest when day temperatures are not too warm to avoid tuber infections. Storage rots develop very rapidly at high temperatures and spread easily in storage. If potatoes are harvested at temperatures above 27o C and cool off slowly in storage, the likelihood of storage rots is increased. If warm weather is forecast, dig the crop early in the morning when it is not so warm.
All the isolates of late blight -Phytophthora infestans tested were US-23 for 2017. No new late blight incidence has been reported in the last week, which has generally been dry, warm and windy. The 7-day DSV accumulation for late blight risk has been essentially minimal. Harvest has begun in many areas.The warm conditions has slowed the harvest of some processing fields, to prevent bringing warm tubers into storage. The seasonal accumulated precipitation has been 50-70% of normal in the potato growing areas (Fig1). The soils are generally on the dry side (Fig 2), but irrigated fields have sufficient moisture for a good harvest. READ MORE
A Dutch company has developed a breed of potato that is resistant to late blight and could greatly reduce the use of pesticides in agriculture, the Financieele Dagblad said on Monday.
Alberta's potato industry is worth more than $1 billion to the province's economy. But it's threatened by a tiny bacterium that causes zebra chip disease, which has already affected crops in the United States, Mexico and New Zealand. This year, a Lethbridge scientist reports, it hasn't shown up in the province."We found hundreds of potato psyllids last year, but we have found under 10 so far this year," Johnson says. "None have the bacteria that cause zebra chip." Read the full news story here. 
Late blight has been confirmed in Manitoba from Rural Municipality of Norfolk Treherne in South Central potato growing region in Manitoba. The region had heavy rains last week in the area. Leaf spot infections appear to be scattered close to the irrigation pivot. The infected leaf spots have sporulation and there are a few infected stems too. Samples will be sent for strain identification. | READ MORE
Health Canada and the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) have completed the food, feed and environmental safety assessments of 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.
Researchers are hoping Canadian potato growers will soon be able to use an innovative approach to control wireworms. This method uses just a few grams of insecticide per hectare applied to cereal seeds that are planted along with untreated seed potatoes. It provides very good wireworm control for the whole growing season, with a lower environmental risk than currently available insecticide options.
While Canadian appetites for sweet potatoes have skyrocketed in recent years, production in Eastern Canada remains small.
Bayer has announced the launch of Sencor STZ, a powerful and innovative new herbicide for broad-spectrum control of all major annual grass and broadleaf weeds in potatoes.
“Although potato psyllids have been known in the past to cause some damage themselves, the real concern is mainly from the bacterium, and we don’t have it in Canada yet. But if our potato psyllid population continues to increase – as it has done during 2013 to 2016 – and if it becomes more continuous with U.S. populations, and if tomato and potato plants (and tubers) are shipped more frequently, then it could arrive,” says Dan Johnson, an entomologist at the University of Lethbridge. | READ MORE
The Prairie Pest Monitoring Network (PPMN), now in its 20th year, continues to provide timely crop insect pest risk and forecasting tools for growers and the industry across Western Canada. As technology and forecasting tools advance, so does the ability of the network to provide relevant insect pest information related to scouting, identification and monitoring tools and information, plus links to provincial monitoring and support relevant to the Canadian Prairies. | READ MORE
  An Islander has heeded the call to mass manufacture a trap to fight P.E.I.'s wireworm pest.
Nov. 28, 2016, Prince Edward Island – Health Canada's proposal to phase out a pesticide over three years will have a significant impact on Island farmers looking to control the Colorado potato beetle, says the P.E.I. Potato Board. | READ MORE
As part of the regular review process, Health Canada has completed its re-evaluation of imidacloprid, and has published its draft risk assessment for public comment. The assessment proposes current use of imidacloprid is not sustainable, and the levels of this pesticide that are being found in waterways and aquatic environments are harmful to aquatic insects, such as mayflies and midges, which are important food sources for fish, birds and other animals. Concentrations of imidacloprid in surface water can range from non-detectable to, in some rare cases, levels as high as 11.9 parts per billion, according to Health Canada. Scientific evidence indicates levels above 0.041 parts per billion are a concern. To address the risks identified, Health Canada has published a proposed risk management plan for public comment, which includes a proposed three-year phase-out of agricultural uses of imidacloprid in order to address risks to aquatic insects. In some cases, where there are no alternative pest control products available, a longer phase-out transition period of five years is being proposed. In a press release, Health Canada said it is consulting on these proposed mitigation measures, and the final re-evaluation decision and risk management plan will take into consideration any comments received during the consultations.  The consultation phase includes a 90-day commentary period in addition to a multi-stakeholder forum that will discuss any proposals for potential alternative mitigation strategies that would achieve the same outcomes in a similar timeframe.  Any proposals for continued registration will need to clearly demonstrate concrete actions to ensure levels of imidacloprid in water will be reduced below the level of concern. Based on the findings of the re-evaluation assessment on imidacloprid, Health Canada is also launching special reviews for two other widely used neonicotinoids: clothianidin and thiamethoxam. These special reviews will examine any potential risks these pesticides may pose to aquatic invertebrates, including insects, as they are also being detected frequently in aquatic environments. In the press release, Health Canada said it will provide updates as new information becomes available.
Bayer has launched Velum Prime nematicide, the first non-fumigant nematicide registered for potatoes in Canada. Velum Prime is a new mode of action and chemical class (pyridinyl ethyl benzamide) for nematode protection. It offers growers effective nematode protection that helps sustain plant vigor and maximize crop yield potential, according to a press release.Recent trials of Velum Prime demonstrated consistent yield and quality increases and reduction in plant parasitic nematodes, including root lesion, root knot and potato cyst nematode. Velum Prime is applied in-furrow at planting. It comes in a liquid formulation that offers reliable efficacy at low application rates making it ideal for use with existing in-furrow application equipment. Applied in-furrow, Velum Prime offers the added benefit of early blight protection. Maximum residue limits for Velum Prime applied in-furrow are in place supporting trade in North America and Europe. Additional MRLs supporting trade in other key export countries, including Japan, are expected early in 2017. For more information regarding Velum Prime, growers are encouraged to talk to their local retailer or visit cropscience.bayer.ca/VelumPrime.
May 4, 2016, Ontario – The early-planted potato crop in the Leamington area is sprouting nicely with strong, healthy sprouts. In the Simcoe-Delhi area, the second earliest area, planting is progressing well, according to the potato crop update from Eugenia Banks.A few seed lots coming from other provinces had high incidence of common scab and silver scurf.  Seed-borne silver scurf Silver scurf is a serious problem for fresh market growers. The fungus causes silvery brown lesions that can grow and join together covering most of the skin of the tuber. The fungus does not survive for very long in the soil, but does move from infected seed to daughter tubers. The variety Superior is very susceptible to silver scurf. If infected seed is planted, plan to harvest the crop as soon as the skin is set. Leaving potatoes in the ground after skin set stimulates the development of the fungus and results in more blemishes. Silver scurf also spreads easily in storage. High humidity increases sporulation, and air circulation in the pile spreads the spores to healthy tubers.  Quadris in-furrow and Emesto Silver as a seed treatment are labelled for silver scurf. Post-harvest applications of phosphorous-acid based fungicides have been reported to reduce the incidence of silver scurf. Late blight There were several outbreaks of late blight this year on potatoes and tomatoes grown in Florida. South Carolina has also reported late blight on tomatoes. All of the outbreaks were caused by US 23 strain. According to the potato pathologist at the University of Wisconsin, US 23 is susceptible to Ridomil. 
  New hope is on the horizon for potato growers engaged in the ongoing battle against Colorado potato beetle (CPB). Researchers are currently field-testing one of the most effective controls ever developed for the potato’s chief insect villain, and it is entirely chemical-free. RNA interference (RNAi) is a biological process whereby RNA (ribonucleic acid) molecules activate a protective response against parasite nucleotide sequences by inhibiting their gene expression. In other words, it is the method by which organisms – including pests such as CPB – defend themselves against threats and regulate their own genes. But the same process that is used by a beetle to protect itself can be used to destroy it when it consumes the long double-stranded RNA (dsRNA) in genetically modified plants. Since 2009, researchers at the Max Planck Institute in Potsdam and Jena, Germany, have been developing genetically modified potato plants to enable their chloroplasts to accumulate dsRNA targeted against essential CPB genes. After feeding on a potato’s leaves – and ingesting the dsRNA – the beetles in the study showed 100 per cent mortality within five days. Why chloroplasts, rather than plant cell nuclei? In past breeding projects, expression of dsRNA in potato plants’ nuclei has proven inefficient because natural RNAi pathways in nuclei prevented the plant from producing enough long dsRNA. But long dsRNA are free to accumulate in chloroplasts – which have no RNAi mechanism – and the plants are fully protected against CPB. According to Jiang Zhang, a professor with the College of Life Science at Hubei University in China, and the lead on the project, the technology shows great promise for the future of pest management, but there are no immediate plans for commercialization until all regulatory hurdles have been overcome. “We encourage more scientists and industry involvement in this field for a better future,” Zhang says. “There is still a long way to go to make it really useful in daily life and be accepted by customers.” RNAi-based biocontrolRNAi for control of CPB has also gained significant momentum in private research and development. Monsanto and Syngenta have both devoted major investments toward the technology. In early 2015, Monsanto’s BioDirect technology platform targeted at CPB advanced to Phase 2 – early product development – of the company’s research and development pipeline. The product will have to complete advanced product development and pre-launch before broad commercialization early in the next decade. While the principle is the same, Monsanto’s product works differently than Max Planck’s modified potato plant: it is sprayed onto the plant’s foliage. Rather than expressing dsRNA in its leaves, dsRNA is applied exogenously to the plant. “The Colorado potato beetle consumes the leaves of the potato plant where we can focus the BioDirect application, versus needing a plant to produce the dsRNA targeting the pest below-ground where sprays cannot reach,” explains Greg Heck, weed control team lead for Monsanto’s chemistry technology area. Heck says there are thousands of dsRNA naturally present in host plants that serve a variety of functions, and beetles consume and incorporate dsRNA all the time. “When targeting them for pest control, we seek to supply one additional dsRNA that will turn down a specific gene critical to their ability to feed and grow on the plant. “Field research conducted on our BioDirect treatment for Colorado potato beetles has already demonstrated some early positive results. This includes reduced Colorado potato beetle larva infestation and plant defoliation in multiple geographies.” Syngenta’s most advanced RNA-based biocontrol targets CPB in potato – and is also applied via a spray. The company has tested the product in multiple geographies over several years with positive results, says Luc Maertens, Syngenta’s RNAi platform lead based in Belgium. The company hopes to commercialize the product early in the next decade pending continued development and regulatory reviews. Maertens says the company’s biocontrol is highly selective and starts to work before CPB can cause too much damage. “The biocontrol is not systemic [in the plant], nor does it work through contact,” he says. “It does not change or have any effect on the DNA of the pest, nor does it involve genetic modification of the plant.” No technology can work forever, however. Insect resistance to RNAi is a potential risk – one companies and researchers alike are keen to avoid so the technology has maximum benefit and longevity. Maertens says that as resistance emerges to existing technologies, and the pest spectrum shifts along with climate change and other factors, growers’ needs will change. “Those challenges cannot be answered by only one technology,” he says. “It is imperative to gain insights into probable resistance mechanisms to RNAi triggers in insects, to monitor possible resistance in the field, and to support the use of the technology with appropriate stewardship requirements.” Of the two methods of RNAi application (genetic modification and spray-on), Zhang believes the former might be better for growers. “Applying dsRNA exogenously is much less cost-effective than expressing dsRNA in the plant itself,” he says. “Spraying may also cause other potential problems in the environment.” RNAi is not meant to be a silver bullet and should be used as part of a multifaceted pest control strategy. Regardless of the method of application, RNAi may soon be working in a field near you.      
Nov. 10, 2015 – It is never too early to find out about the new crop-protection products, reminds Eugenia Banks, potato specialist at OMAFRA, in her latest potato update. These new products were recently registered and should be available for the 2016 season. Here is a list of pesticides, some with new active ingredients: Trade name Application method Disease or insect Aprovia(Syngenta) Group 7 In-furrow *Suppression of Rhizoctonia stem canker, stolon canker and black scurf Sercadis (BASF) Group 7 Foliar and aerial Control of early blight and white mould.Use of a non-ionic surfactant is recommended Sercadis (BASF) Group 7 In-furrow Control of Rhizoctonia canker Voliam Express(Syngenta) Group 3A and 28 Foliar Control of black curworm, variegated cutworm, armyworm, potato psyllidActive ingredients: pyrethroid + diamide Agri-mek SC(Syngenta) Group 6 Foliar Control of potato psyllid and spider mites (not a pest in Ontario) Control is at least 85 per cent control *Suppression is 65 to 85 per cent control "May provide some control" is less than 65 per cent control. There are also label changes to some registered products. For instance, the label of Rampart (phosphite) has been expanded to a foliar application for suppression of late blight and pink rot. In general, any product that suppresses late blight should be tank mixed with a compatible control product. A better approach would be to tank mix two compatible control products. If the weather is favorable for late blight, this disease can explode and devastate potato fields very quickly. There are new registrations for potato psyllids. This tiny insect is the vector of the bacterium that causes zebra chip. This past season, I placed several yellow sticky cards in three Alliston fields to monitor for potato psyllids, but no potato psyllids were caught on the cards. In the past, this insect has been reported in British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Quebec. Psyllids were found in Ontario a few years ago, but only in a greenhouse, not in the field. It is always good to have registered products available for the control of potential pests. There will be more updates to come as new products are registered. 
Severe Colorado potato beetle larval damage to potatoes. Photo by Vikram Bisht, MAFRD. Colorado potato beetle (CPB) has been a challenging pest for potato growers for more than a century, and today it continues to be the most damaging insect defoliator of potatoes across Canada and the U.S. If uncontrolled, growers suffer yield losses and potential crop failure in potato crops and other field vegetable crops such as tomatoes and eggplant. Growers continue to rely on insecticides for control, however CPB is very adept and successful at developing resistance, creating additional challenges for researchers, industry and growers.  With increasing potato farm size and repeated use of effective insecticides, there has been high selection pressure on CPB to survive. Insecticide resistance develops largely from the overuse and repeated application of chemicals with similar modes of action that increase the selection of the resistant individuals in the population. “Colorado potato beetles resistant to DDT were first reported in 1955, and have since developed resistance to over 51 different insecticides, including imidacloprid and eight other neonicotinoids in the U.S.,” Ian Scott, research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) in London, Ont., says. “Colorado potato beetle resistance in Canada has developed more slowly, with the first findings of resistance in 2003, to imidacloprid (Admire), the first neonicotinoid registered in Canada, and increasing reports of problems and crop failures in Ontario and Quebec by 2007.”  In 2008, Scott and colleagues initiated a four-year project to survey CPB neonicotinoid resistance in Canadian potato fields. Growers and agronomists from across Canada sent live samples to AAFC every summer. “We partnered with different chemical companies on the project and, depending on which products were surveyed in a particular year, we conducted bioassays in the lab,” Scott says. “We were able to screen quite a few populations of Colorado potato beetle through the bioassays. We were trying to confirm what growers and extension people were seeing related to resistance concerns with registered neonicotinoid uses. Also, some companies were planning to introduce new products of the same class or different groups and wanted to see if there was any potential cross-resistance with the older products.”  The results of the four-year survey confirmed previous studies showing that many CPB populations have become less sensitive to imidacloprid and that cross-resistance with the second-generation neonicotinoids thiamethoxam and clothianidin is a growing concern. Scott adds the survey also demonstrated cross-resistance is on the rise. “Using comparisons of Colorado potato beetle mortality generated from lab bioassays with Admire, Actara and Titan, a strong positive correlation indicated there is potential for cross-resistance between these three neonics,” Scott notes. “However, cross-reaction correlation was weaker between neonic Admire (Group 4A) and diamide insecticide Coragen (chlorantraniliprole, Group 28), indicating the cross-resistance between these classes is less likely to develop.”  According to Vikram Bisht, plant pathologist with Manitoba Agriculture, Food and Rural Development, the Atlantic provinces, and Quebec and Ontario have had a greater problem with CPB resistance to Group 4 insecticides. “However, Manitoba has seen some population shifts to resistance,” he notes. “Alberta currently does not have serious issues and so far even older chemistries appear to still be effective there. Resistance to the newer insecticides is highly likely if the products are continuously used without proper insecticide resistance management practices being applied. It is important to rotate chemistries to prevent multiplication of insecticide resistant populations.”  Vikram adds CPB populations collected from treated fields in Manitoba in 2012 and 2013 and tested by Scott were also found to be imidacloprid resistant (with less than 30 per cent mortality) or showed reduced sensitivity to clothianidin or thiamethoxam (with 30 to 70 per cent mortality). Repeated use of similar mode-of-action insecticides may often lead to development of cross-resistance against newer insecticides, even though they had not been previously applied. Therefore, resistance against clothianidin and thiamethoxam has a greater chance of appearing in imidacloprid-resistant CPB populations. “Generally, every commercial grower treats seed potato for Colorado potato beetle and in most cases control is quite effective,” Bisht says. “In areas where resistance is developing and in situations where growers also need to use a foliar application for in-crop control, they must make sure to use a different chemistry in-crop than was used for seed treatment. There are at least five different seed treatment or in-furrow chemistries and a few other chemistries for in-crop, so growers do have options available. Growers should make rotating insecticide chemistries a priority whether or not they have resistance concerns, as it is good practice to ensure long-term use of the good tools available.”  Bisht adds crop rotations of two years or longer are needed to be effective. However, fields must not be adjacent to last year’s crop. “Short distances from previous potato crops reduces the advantage of crop rotation, since the overwintering Colorado potato beetle adults from last year’s field can easily crawl to adjacent fields. Also, Colorado potato beetles can fly short distances during warm days and can easily move 100 to 200 metres.” New research and management options“We are working on other projects focused on understanding the mechanisms responsible for resistance of Colorado potato beetle through molecular and biochemical analyses,” Scott says. “We have maintained a number of Colorado potato beetle colonies in the lab for use in various projects; for example, screening alternative biopesticide products and the use of natural plant compounds as insecticide synergists.”  One recent project studied the potential use of dillapiol, the main constituent in Indian dill (Anethum sowa), as a synergist to help improve insecticide activity and longevity, and control of resistant pest populations. Synergists have a long history of use, one of the most frequently used ones being piperonyl butoxide (PBO) in combination with the natural insecticide pyrethrum. PBO is a very effective synergist but has related toxicological concerns. “Our laboratory trials testing of pyrethrum alone versus pyrethrum combined with dillapiol indicated that the synergist increased the activity of pyrethrum against insecticide-susceptible and -resistant Colorado potato beetle,” Scott explains. “In field trials, both the PBO and dillapiol synergized pyrethrum had 10 times the efficacy of pyrethrum alone. We continue to work on dillapiol and other natural plant-derived synergists that may offer compounds with improved health and environmental safety and potential for organic certification.”  Research continues on other strategies to help growers manage the challenges of CPB. “There continues to be a focus on the development of new varieties with Colorado potato beetle resistance, however transgenic varieties have not yet been accepted by the market,” Bisht says. “Plant breeders are also using conventional breeding to introduce natural resistance genes from wild species, and hopefully in the future varieties will become available. “There are other cultural practices that can be options for organic or smaller growers, but so far most are not practical for larger commercial growers. There is a new biological insecticide available – Novodor (Bacillus thuringiensis subsp. tenebrionis, strain NB-176) – but it is not currently used by commercial potato growers. Plastic-lined trenches on field edges could be effective for small farms, which trap Colorado potato beetle and prevent movement into the field.”  Considerable efforts continue to be focused on addressing resistance. Scott and Bisht remind growers everyone must do their part to be vigilant in monitoring and scouting for CPB resistance, follow proper insecticide resistant management practices and alternate classes of insecticides available. “The survival of beetles after an insecticide application could be due to a variety of factors, including improper coverage, failure to apply the full rate of insecticide, or precipitation soon after application and existence of actual insensitivity (tolerance/resistance) to the insecticide,” Scott says. “It is very important for growers and industry to practice good stewardship and maintain the use of these products as long as possible. It takes a considerable [amount of] resources, time and funds to develop new chemistries, so protecting the tools we have as long as possible is a best practice.”   Burn, beetle, burnIn February 1994, Potatoes in Canada magazine, a sister publication to Top Crop Manager magazine, published a story with an eye-catching headline: “Burn, beetle, burn.” The story explains that in the summer of 1992, field trials began on an eight-row flamer designed to control Colorado potato beetles (CPB) that had recently demonstrated resistance to traditional chemical treatments. The flamer tests were initiated by ICG Propane, in co-operation with the Ontario Ministry of Agriculture, the University of Guelph, and growers in Alliston and Leamington, Ont. The trials showed that flaming had several mechanisms for limiting beetle damage. The most obvious was that it could kill the beetle adults outright. But the trials also shows there were three secondary controls: First, flaming caused sufficient damage to the CPB so that it died in the near term; second, if eggs and antennae were damaged, the beetles became disoriented and, thus, unable to feed or mate; and third, the heat from the flaming resulted in a high mortality for the eggs already laid. The trials showed that using the propane flamer in the spring for overwintering adults gave control of 70 to 80 per cent of the adult beetles and also killed nearly 50 per cent of the eggs. Late season control, the time of top killing, gave 95 to 100 per cent control of adult CPB. In addition, the 1994 story stated growers were “astonished at the level of weed control that came as a result of the flaming activity.” Even more interesting was the low level of plant damage from the flaming. The story states that in almost all locations of the study, slight plant injury similar to that observed when plants are hit by a late frost did occur. However, the growing tip of the plant was not affected, and most injury was unnoticeable after about a week. “Potato yields taken at four of the test sites showed no difference in yield between flamed and unflamed areas.” At the end of the day, physical methods to control Colorado potato beetle and other pests are seeing resurgence, as the very real threat of insecticide resistance increases.  
A new study at the Harrington Research Farm in P.E.I. is examining how to make buckwheat crops an even more effective and practical option for potato growers looking to control wireworm. Photo by AAFC. Growing two years of buckwheat in a potato rotation is effective at managing wireworms, one of the toughest pest problems for potato growers. But how does buckwheat actually affect wireworms, and can we make buckwheat rotation even more effective and practical for growers? A rotational study is underway on Prince Edward Island to answer these questions. The P.E.I. study is part of a major project to investigate different strategies for dealing with wireworms, led by Christine Noronha, a research scientist with Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC). The project, funded by AAFC, involves AAFC scientists across the country because wireworms cause serious problems in many regions and many crops. Wireworms are the soil-dwelling larvae of click beetles. Canada has about 30 wireworm species of economic importance. In most species, the beetles lay eggs in the soil in the spring. A few weeks later, the larvae hatch. The larval stage lasts about four or five years, depending on the species. Then the larvae pupate and the adults emerge from the soil in spring. In potatoes, wireworms tunnel into the tubers, reducing marketable yield. The tunnels can also be entry points for potato pathogens. Noronha has been conducting wireworm research in P.E.I. for over a decade. Her rotational studies show growing either brown mustard or buckwheat as a cover crop for two years before growing potatoes can reduce tuber damage by about 80 per cent or more. Brown mustard is known to release chemicals into the soil that control wireworms, but the reasons for buckwheat’s effect on wireworms are not yet known. AAFC research scientist Aaron Mills is leading the new P.E.I. buckwheat agronomy study. It is taking place at the Harrington Research Farm and runs from 2014 to 2016. “Christine Noronha has done an excellent job at figuring out how to control wireworm with buckwheat; it’s now another tool in the toolbox for controlling wireworm. A big part of this new buckwheat study is to find out how and why buckwheat affects wireworms,” Mills explains. “We also want to establish local protocols for how to deal with buckwheat in the rotation, so growers wouldn’t be as intimidated by the potential for buckwheat to become a weed problem, and to establish some protocols for managing buckwheat as a grain as well.” Better understanding of how buckwheat impacts wireworms could potentially lead to advances that enhance wireworm control. For instance, one possibility is that buckwheat is releasing compounds into the soil that kill or suppress wireworms directly or perhaps affect other components of the soil ecosystem in ways that make conditions less favourable for wireworms. If such compounds are released when buckwheat foliage decomposes in the soil, then the most effective wireworm control strategy might be to disk the plant into the soil as a green manure. Or it may be best managed as a mulch, in which case flail mowing as a green manure may be best. If the compounds are released by the roots, then perhaps it might be better to let the buckwheat crop grow for a longer period before terminating it. If buckwheat produces compounds that deter other insect pests or pathogens, in addition to wireworms, then it could provide even greater benefits in the crop rotation. In the longer term, perhaps buckwheat lines could be selected that have higher levels of those compounds, or perhaps a bio-insecticide could be developed using the compounds. A key aspect of successfully including buckwheat in a crop rotation is to ensure volunteer buckwheat doesn’t become a weed issue. “Traditionally buckwheat has been grown as a weed control measure, and some growers are concerned about growing it because it can become a weed itself if you let it grow too long and go to seed,” Mills says. He explains buckwheat grows very well in P.E.I.; the seedlings emerge and grow quickly, enabling the crop to outcompete weeds. As well, some research indicates buckwheat releases chemicals into the soil that inhibit the growth of certain plant species. Those characteristics make buckwheat great at fighting weeds, but can also make volunteer buckwheat a problem for the next crop. Although letting buckwheat go to seed is a weed risk, growing buckwheat for grain would be an important opportunity for growers to obtain some income from growing two years of buckwheat for wireworm control. “Right now I would say the majority of growers on the Island are growing buckwheat for wireworm control, but I think people are interested in growing it as a crop for grain as well,” Mills notes. “I think the main export market for buckwheat is for use in noodles in the Asian market, although it has been grown in places like New Brunswick to make flour for buckwheat pancakes. And there may be opportunities in the health food industry; for example, buckwheat oil is reported to have some bioactive benefits.” Buckwheat also attracts pollinators and is used for honey production. Wireworms, organic matter, microbes and moreMills’ study is comparing five different three-year potato rotations. Three of the rotations involve two years of buckwheat and are comparing three strategies for terminating buckwheat: disking, flailing, and desiccating and then harvesting it for grain. “For termination through disking, we wait until the lower seeds start to drop off and then we use a set of disks to incorporate the aboveground crop material into the soil. For termination through flailing, we wait for the lower seeds to start to drop, and then go in with a flail mower and completely flail off the top of the aboveground biomass, leaving the residue on the top of the soil surface, almost as a smothering effect. And to manage buckwheat for grain, we desiccate the crop and then take it off with a combine,” Mills says. He adds, “We wait for the lower seeds to start to drop off when flailing or disking because we’ve found that buckwheat turns to jelly when you flail or disk it – the remaining residue breaks down fairly quickly. So rather than ending up with bare soil going into the winter, we wait for the lower seeds to start to drop off to make sure there will be a little bit of cover going into the winter.” For the three buckwheat treatments, Mills’ research team is measuring factors like buckwheat biomass and seed yield, as appropriate. The other two rotations in the study are traditional three-year potato rotations used in P.E.I.: barley underseeded with clover and then potatoes; and barley underseeded with a grass and then potatoes. These traditional rotations have benefits for soil conservation, but they favour the spread of wireworms because the beetles prefer to lay their eggs in grassy areas. The researchers will be gathering data on such factors as potato yields and the levels of wireworm damage in the tubers for the five rotations. As well, they will examine effects of the different rotations on water quality, soil organic matter content and soil nutrient levels, so nutrient management specialist Judith Nyiraneza and water quality specialist Yefang Jiang are involved in the study. “Although any green cover on the soil helps to reduce erosion, the study will be examining whether or not buckwheat is particularly good at preventing erosion or building up soil organic matter,” Mills says. “I think the jury is still out on whether buckwheat is a soil builder or not.” Buckwheat’s effect on soil nutrients also needs to be clarified. Some previous research has suggested buckwheat may make nutrients like phosphorus more available to the next crop, while other sources suggest buckwheat may reduce levels of certain nutrients. To better understand how buckwheat controls wireworms, Christian Gallant, a graduate student from Dalhousie University, is looking at the soil organism communities in the plots, especially the nematode communities, and also the fungal and bacterial communities. He will be examining how species diversity and populations change through the course of the growing season and with the different crops. Mills explains the value of examining nematode communities: “Most people focus on the plant parasitic nematodes. Those nematodes feed on plant roots, and the damage from their feeding also opens up spots for pathogens like Verticillium to enter the plant’s root system. But there is a whole other side of the nematode community. They all have specific jobs to do; there are bacterial feeders, fungal feeders and predators that feed on other nematodes and even mites. By studying the overall nematode community, we can get a snapshot of how things are happening biologically in the soil.” In addition, researchers will be testing the soil for buckwheat compounds that could be affecting soil organisms. “We’re trying to figure out if buckwheat is actually releasing chemicals into the soil that are affecting the soil pest populations, or if buckwheat is just a non-host for some of these pests,” Mills says. With one field season completed so far, Mills is looking ahead to the results from 2015 and 2016. “By the end of 2015, we’ll have a really good idea of how the different buckwheat treatments affect soil organisms, nutrients and organic matter, [and water quality]. And by the end of the study’s third year, we’ll have an excellent idea of how everything affects potato production.” In the meantime, growers are welcome to visit the Harrington Research Farm to see the plots and learn more about the study.      
Farmers know the importance of keeping the land, water and air healthy to sustain their farms from one generation to the next. They also know that a clean environment and a strong economy go hand-in-hand.The Honourable Carla Qualtrough, Member of Parliament for Delta and Minister of Public Services and Procurement, recently announced a $1.8 million investment with the University of British Columbia to determine carbon sequestration and GHG emissions, and develop beneficial management practices (BMPs) for increasing the efficiency of fertilizer use in blueberry, potato and forage crops.This project with the University of British Columbia is one of 20 new research projects supported by the $27 million Agricultural Greenhouse Gases Program (AGGP), a partnership with universities and conservation groups across Canada. The program supports research into greenhouse gas mitigation practices and technologies that can be adopted on the farm."This project will provide new science-based knowledge on net GHG emissions by accurately measuring GHG emissions and developing mitigation technologies for blueberry, potato and forage crops in the Lower Fraser Valley. The research team will use state-of-the-art instrumentation and automated measurement techniques to quantify annual GHG emissions. While the specific research objectives are targeted to fill regionally identified gaps in knowledge, they will be applicable more broadly to similar agricultural production systems across Canada and Global Research Alliance member countries," said Dr. Rickey Yada, Dean, Faculty of Land and Food Systems, UBC.
A sixth-generation farmer from Malden, N.B. has found a market for potatoes too small to sell to grocery stores.Blue Roof Distillers is the first Canadian farm-to-bottle distillery making vodka from potatoes.The family used to donate the tiny taters from its 350-acre farm to local cattle farmers for feed or sell them to a dehydration plant that would turn them into potato flakes.But an oversupply of small potatoes meant the dehydration plant's prices were low, so the family needed a new business venture, says Devon Strang. For the full story, click here. 
The PEI Potato Industry has released a 30 second commercial highlighting the industry. The farmers from the Island are proud of what they do and want to showcase the positive work.The project was filmed over the summer and early fall on different farms and field locations all over Prince Edward Island. It was directed and produced by Furrow Creative in Charlottetown PEI. The video features Island potato farmers and their families doing what they do best – growing the best quality potatoes in the world."We have so much to be proud of and thankful for in our potato industry here on PEI. It's the backbone of our economy, it's a major part of our culture and PEI wouldn't be the same without it." says Rodney Dingwell, Chairman of the PEI Potato Board.The video will air primarily on local television with a digital campaign airing in the Ontario and Atlantic Canadian markets.So what does it take to grow a quality potato? For the PEI Potato industry, it takes an Island! For more information, visit: https://www.peipotato.org/
Researchers from Ohio State University and the Italian National Agency for New Technologies have developed a "golden" potato with significantly increased levels of vitamins A and E. Findings from a new study were published recently in PLOS ONE in an article entitled "Potential of Golden Potatoes to Improve Vitamin A and Vitamin E Status in Developing Countries."The research team found that a serving of the yellow-orange lab-engineered potato has the potential to provide as much as 42 per cent of a child's recommended daily intake of vitamin A and 34 per cent of a child's recommended intake of vitamin E. For the full story, click here. 
Some new high tech tools will soon give farmers a way to keep weeds down, cut costs and herbicide use dramatically and work around weed resistance to herbicides.In collaboration with a University of Prince Edward Island (UPEI) engineer, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada weed specialist Andrew McKenzie-Gopsill is turning to sensors, cameras and computer algorithms to detect the exact location of weeds in a field.The digital technology will create a data base of images to identify weeds, essentially pinpointing only the areas where herbicide is required.The technique could cut down herbicide use to a fraction of what it is now and could significantly reduce operating costs for growers.Some hurdles remain to smooth out the sensor imaging, but the goal is to create field data that can be fed into software that farmers can purchase for use on their sprayers.Initial equipment costs of around $20,000 could be recouped over a couple of years with the savings from reduced herbicide purchases.Much like antibiotic resistance in human medicine, the number of weeds that are resistant to commonly used herbicides is on the increase.Herbicides that were once worked well now offer limited control and the overuse of herbicides is a major factor in weed resistance to sprays.McKenzie-Gopsill is now doing experiments to find out how resistant various commons weeds on PEI are to herbicides.His research shows there is weed resistance to metribuzin, the active ingredient in the #1 herbicide used by potato growers.Weeds collected from tests at AAFC Harrington Research Farm tolerated very high rates of metribuzin. Some fields where metribuzin was applied showed no weed control. This research has the potential to address this challenge while helping growers to continue to provide Canadians with healthy, high-quality food.
In September, potato storage began in the Netherlands. Many crops, including potatoes, are harvested. These potatoes are then stored for several months. A new atomiser, specifically for sprout inhibitors during this 'storage period', has been designed.The atomiser, known as the Synofog, uses a new technique - electro-thermal atomisation. The advantage of this new piece of apparatus is that it does not have an open flame. This ensures its safe use with all kinds of sprout inhibitors. READ MORE
With more than two dozen companies in Pennsylvania manufacturing potato chips, it is no wonder that researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences have developed a novel approach to more efficiently convert potato waste into ethanol. This process may lead to reduced production costs for biofuel in the future and add extra value for chip makers.Using potato mash made from the peelings and potato residuals from a Pennsylvania food-processor, researchers triggered simultaneous saccharification – the process of breaking down the complex carbohydrate starch into simple sugars – and fermentation – the process in which sugars are converted to ethanol by yeasts or other microorganisms in bioreactors.The simultaneous nature of the process was innovative, according to researcher Ali Demirci, professor of agricultural and biological engineering. The addition to the bioreactor of mold and yeast – Aspergillus niger and Saccharomyces cerevisiae, respectively – catalyzed the conversion of potato waste to bioethanol.The bioreactor had plastic composite supports to encourage and enhance biofilm formation and to increase the microbial population.Biofilms are a natural way of immobilizing microbial cells on a solid support material. In a biofilm environment, microbial cells are abundant and more resistant to environmental stress causing higher productivities. In this application, these benefits were especially important because mold enzyme activity required higher temperature and the yeast had to tolerate this.Researchers evaluated the effects of temperature, pH and aeration rates in biofilm reactors, and the optimal conditions were found to be 95 degrees Fahrenheit and a pH of 5.8 with no aeration. After 72 hours, the researchers achieved the maximum ethanol concentration of 37.93 grams per liter. The yield was 0.41 grams or ethanol per gram of starch."These results are promising, because the co-culture biofilm reactor provided similar ethanol production – 37.93 grams per litre – compared to the conventional ethanol production – 37.05 grams per liter – which required pre-treatment with added commercial enzymes at a higher temperature," Demirci explained. "Therefore, eliminating the externally added enzyme and energy costs will certainly reduce the cost of bioethanol production."Researchers also evaluated biofilm formation of co-culture on the plastic composite supports using a scanning electron microscope, said researcher Gulten Izmirlioglu, a doctoral student in agricultural and biological engineering when the study was conducted. "Scanning electron microscope images revealed that when mold and yeast are allowed to form a biofilm, hyphae (filaments) of the mold provide surface area for the yeasts' attachment," she said. "That's a good thing."The research findings, which demonstrated that plastic composite supports can be used for simultaneous saccharification and fermentation processes in biofilm reactors with co-cultures when producing ethanol, were published in Fuel. Izmirlioglu believes the results are significant for industry."Overall, bioethanol production from starchy industrial wastes can be improved with application of biofilm reactors, while the production cost is reduced with integrations of the simultaneous saccharification and fermentation process and co-culturing," she said.More efficient bioethanol production is needed to meet the demand for renewable energy and reduce the negative environmental impacts of petroleum fuel, Demirci noted. To make ethanol production cost-competitive, inexpensive, and easily available, feedstocks such as potato mash are needed, as well as improved processing technologies with higher productivities."This research is of great interest to Keystone Potato Products in Hegins, Pennsylvania, a subsidiary of Sterman Masser Inc.," said Demirci. "The company is paying attention to this project, hoping this novel approach may help it add more value to its waste potato mash. Industrial food wastes are potentially a great substrate in production of value-added products to reduce the cost, while managing the waste economically and environmentally."Also contributing to the research was John Cantolina in the Microscopy and Cytometry Facility at the Huck Institutes of the Life Sciences, Penn State.
The Canadian Federation of Agriculture (CFA), the American Farm Bureau Federation (AFBF) and Consejo Nacional Agropecuario (CNA) have sent a joint letter to Canadian, American and Mexican government officials, reiterating their calls that re-negotiations of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) should aim to modernize the agreement, rather than dismantle it.
The Canadian Agricultural Human Resource Council (CAHRC) recently held an AgriWorkforce Roundtable to discuss challenges and possible solutions to address the critical agricultural labour shortage in Canada.
Chinese scientists will attempt to grow potatoes on the moon as part of a forthcoming lunar mission.
P.E.I. potatoes fetched good prices in 2016, continuing a trend that stretches back to 2004. The strong performance for Island spuds was shown in the farm product prices indexed released by Statistics Canada. | READ MORE
It may be a while before robots and drones are as common as tractors and combine harvesters on farms, but the high-tech tools may soon play a major role in helping feed the world's rapidly growing population.

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