Traits and Genetics
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.
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.
While Canadian appetites for sweet potatoes have skyrocketed in recent years, production in Eastern Canada remains small.
New Zealand farmers have invented a new kind of potato they claim has 40 percent less carbs.
Whether its disease resistance, tolerance to stress in the environment or better cold-storage capabilities, research scientists have been incorporating wild potato genetic resources into breeding lines for years to develop more resilient potato varieties. At Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada's (AAFC) Fredericton Research and Development Centre, this practice is being increasingly refined in order to meet the needs of the industry which range from higher yields to disease and drought resistance.

Benoit Bizimungu is quick to identify top breeding priorities for implementing marker-assisted selection at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s (AAFC) Fredericton Research and Development Centre.

More Growing Forward 2 funding has been put in place to help expand markets for Canadian potatoes.

The project, funded under the AgriMarketing Program, provides the Canadian Horticultural Council with up to $274,714 to help grow foreign and domestic markets for Canadian potatoes through trade shows, targeted advertising, incoming missions, market research and development, and product promotion.

This investment is part of the federal government's plan to help Canadian farmers expand markets at home and abroad. Canadian potato exports are currently $1.6 billion dollars annually.

It is rare in biology that a single trait can answer questions spanning several fields of research. One such trait is plant biology’s “leaf mass per area,” a simple measurement calculated by weighing a dried leaf and dividing by its original fresh area. Leaf mass per area, or LMA, which has been measured in thousands of studies, is used in nearly every field of plant biology to make predictions of many processes and properties such as leaf photosynthetic rates, nitrogen content and plant environmental preferences.

However, despite the simplicity of the measurement of leaf mass area and its value for predicting so many aspects of plant biology, the relationship of leaf mass area to leaf structure – the cells and tissues that make up a leaf, and their numbers and dimensions – has not previously been determined.

Researchers at the University of California – Los Angeles (UCLA) have developed a mathematical equation for leaf mass area that will help to determine what drives plant behaviours based on their cells.

The research, which has important implications as plants adapt to a warming environment, is published online by Ecology Letters, a prestigious journal in the field of ecology.

“The great diversity of leaves in size, shape and color is dazzling, and yet, it is nothing as compared to the diversity of cells and tissues inside,” said Lawren Sack, a professor of ecology and evolutionary biology and the study’s senior author. “However, we have lacked equations to relate this inner diversity to overall leaf behavior in an exact way.”

Grace John, a UCLA doctoral student in ecology and evolutionary biology and the study’s lead author, conducted a detailed study of the anatomy of 11 species growing on the grounds of UCLA that included iconic species from many ecosystems, such as the toyon or hollywood, and a species of tea from Japan. She measured cross-sections for the sizes and numbers of cells of the different leaf tissues and she stained whole leaves to measure their vein tissues. The team then developed a theoretical approach based on geometric principles to derive an equation for leaf mass area, taking into account the dimensions and numbers of cells of each type in the leaf.

The biologists’ strategy was to create a powerful mathematical equation that predicts the leaf mass area from just the structures inside the leaf. This equation was able to predict the leaf mass area of the diverse leaves with extreme precision.

The team, which collaborated with researchers in Spain, Germany and Australia, also used the mathematical approach to explain the difference between evergreen and deciduous leaves in their toughness.

“If you grab a leaf from a California evergreen shrub and a deciduous sycamore tree, you can feel the difference in toughness, but it’s more challenging to explain why,” John said. “With our approach, we show that evergreen leaves tend to be tougher and live longer because they have larger and denser cells.”

“The implications of these kinds of equations are enormous,” Sack said. Because a lower leaf mass area generally leads to greater plant growth and productivity, and a higher leaf mass area can contribute to stress tolerance, this approach can resolve how differences in cell traits among species affect productivity and tolerance to environmental stress given climate change. 

“It is hard to exaggerate the importance of LMA in plant biology — it’s like body size in animal ecology, facial symmetry for the psychology of attraction, and sprint speed for NFL wide receivers,” John said. “LMA has really been the ‘uber’ variable for understanding plant economics, productivity and function.”

Sack described the approach as a game-changer for designing crops with higher productivity or greater stress tolerance.

“We are aiming to usher in a new era in the science of leaf economics by merging plant anatomy with mathematics and ecology in a unique way,” he said.

 

Three types of potatoes genetically engineered to resist the pathogen that caused the Irish potato famine are safe for the environment and safe to eat, federal officials announced.

The approval by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and Food and Drug Administration late last week, gives Idaho-based J.R. Simplot Co. permission to plant the potatoes this spring and sell them in the fall.

The company said the potatoes contain only potato genes and that the resistance to late blight, the disease that caused the Irish potato famine, comes from an Argentine variety of potato that naturally produced a defense.

There is no evidence that genetically modified organisms, known as GMOs, are unsafe to eat, but changing the genetic code of foods presents an ethical issue for some. McDonald’s declines to use Simplot’s genetically engineered potatoes for its french fries.

The three new varieties of potato — the Russet Burbank, Ranger Russet and Atlantic — have previously been approved by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. They “have the same taste and texture and nutritional qualities” as conventional potatoes, Simplot spokesman Doug Cole said.

The company said they will have reduced bruising and black spots, enhanced storage capacity and a lower amount of a chemical that’s a potential carcinogen and is created when potatoes are cooked at high temperatures.

Conventional potatoes can turn a dark color when cooked after they were kept cold for too long, a problem the new varieties reduce, the company said. Simplot also said the enhanced cold storage will likely have significant ramifications for the potato chip industry by reducing trucking costs.

 

The popularity of Russet Burbank potatoes, grown to meet demand for fast-food French fries, is having an ecological impact because their long growing season requires lots of fertilizer and fungicide. 

 Thanks to the power of technology, curated news is delivered straight to my inbox each day, making it easy for me to keep up with the latest trends, technologies and happenings in the world of agriculture.

Admittedly, the system is a bit flawed, as some of the potato-related headlines aren’t the exact type of news I’m after. Without fail, a new recipe featuring potatoes lands in my inbox, and although the dish may look and sound mouth-watering, it’s not the type of potato “news” we look for to share with readers of Potatoes in Canada.

However, when a story about an Australian man who ate nothing but potatoes throughout 2016 made headlines late last year, I couldn’t help but click the link. Andrew Taylor, a 36-year-old man from Melbourne, Australia, told the International Business Times he was addicted to food and at the end of 2015, he decided enough was enough. He resolved to find one healthy food he could eat every day and quit everything else. Taylor said he conducted considerable research and settled on potatoes because they provide a balanced source of nutrition. At the time of this writing, Taylor had reported losing a total of 52 kilograms, or 115 pounds. He said he plans to continue the diet, with a few modifications, into 2017 and has even dedicated a website – www.spudfit.com – to his journey.

Taylor maintains the challenge is not intended to be a weight loss program, and while this isn’t the type of news you’ll see covered in our pages, there’s a link between Taylor’s story and the research’s ongoing quest to find healthier potatoes. We’ve covered new varieties with added health benefits before – everything from potatoes with lower glycemic responses, to a potato extract that could do exactly what Taylor set out to do: fight obesity and help with other health issues. Perhaps Taylor’s story may bring more light to the benefits potatoes have to offer, which can only help potato scientists across Canada and the world continue their efforts to breed spuds with significant health benefits – a win-win, if you ask me.

In this issue of Potatoes in Canada, the focus shifts away from what the potato can do to keep you healthy, and more toward what you – and some of Canada’s top potato researchers – are doing to keep the potato healthy. As we approach another growing season, pest and disease concerns will soon be at the top of your mind. Make sure you're subscribed to our e-news, where we will send you a monthly newsletter outling the stories that matter to you most. 

Whether your potato interests lie on the breeding side or the growing side, we hope you find valuable information among our stories. Best wishes for a safe and prosperous growing season.

Breeders try to combine all of the positive attributes, including improved levels of disease and pest resistance, or, at the very least, without unacceptably high levels of susceptibility. Photo courtesy of AAFC. 

One has dark pink flesh and red skin, making it rich in antioxidants and perfect for niche marketing. Another increases yields by as much as 35 per cent when compared with the industry standard Russet Burbank, which is good news for french fry processors. Several others offer particular disease and pest resistances.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has deregulated the Ranger Russet and Atlantic varieties of the second generation genetically modified Innate potato developed by J.R. Simplot.

They join the Innate second generation Russet Burbank potato, deregulated last year, according to a news release. The Packer reports. | READ MORE

Sept. 15, 2016, Ontario – Selecting suitable varieties is the first step in any successful potato operation. Not only must varieties suit the intended market, but they must also be well adapted to local growing conditions. Potato breeders are continuously releasing new varieties, but varieties that perform well in one region may not do well in neighbouring areas. Thus, new varieties must be evaluated to determine local adaptation. 

In 2016, the Dutch company HZPC, sponsored an on-farm variety trial in Ontario. The trial was organized and hand planted by Eugenia Banks at Dorsey Farms near Alliston. Plot maintenance – weekly irrigation, application of crop protection products when needed and top-killing – was done by Brad Dorsey and his son Adam. 

This trial was a real test for new varieties because of the extremely high temperatures and drought that prevailed all summer. Such extreme conditions promote the development of problems such as second growth, heat necrosis and pythium leak, to name a few. 

A total of 100 new varieties/clones plus standards for comparison were evaluated. Fresh market yellows, whites, reds, blues, purples, fingerlings, russets and processing potatoes were included in the trial. 

Among the new yellow fleshed varieties, Salinero, Primabelle, Noblesse, Panamera, Orlena and Jennifer performed very well. The standard for yellows was Colomba, a beautiful smooth skin, high yielding variety that is being grown commercially in Ontario. 

A red, yellow fleshed entry, Clone #46, produced a high yield of attractive round tubers with smooth, deep red skin. It has excellent culinary traits. Probably, this clone will be named in the near future. Fenway Red an early-maturing red with round, attractive white fleshed tubers got good scores. Sunred was noticeable for its high yield. 

In the white flesh table category, the recently released Whitney was hard to beat due to its high tolerance to common scab, beautiful smooth skin and no culls. 

The white fleshed Ivory Russet performed very well. Pomerelle Russet, a standard for russets, produced a good crop of long, heavy-russeted tubers of medium yield, but no culls. 

In the specialty category, the red-skinned Prince of Orange has the darkest yellow flesh of any of the current varieties. It will be of interest to growers producing potatoes for the gourmet market. Prince of Orange has outstanding culinary traits. Mozart was, as usual, a winner in the specialty category: beautiful, smooth pinkish skin, high yield, very tasty. 

After yield was taken, a sample of each of the 100 entries was put in storage to determine their dry matter content, culinary traits, susceptibility to silver scurf and Fusarium dry rot. The entries with the highest scores will be displayed at growers’ meetings. 

This on-farm trial exceeded expectations: no heat-related problems were detected, yield was above average and several entries look promising for the Ontario market. 

On-farm variety trials provide invaluable information for potato growers and are an important component of technology transfer. 

 

May 26, 2016, Canada – Bred by plant scientist Gary Johnston, the Yukon Gold potato – praised for its versatility and flavour – celebrates its 50th anniversary this year. | READ MORE

 

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