Specialty Research
Zebra chip is a serious disease that can kill potato plants, significantly reduce yields, and make infected tubers unmarketable. It was first documented in Mexico in 1994 and in Texas in 2000. Since then, it has spread northward through much of the Western United States, as well as to Central America and New Zealand.
Published in Diseases
Research that would help determine what species and strains of the common scab bacterium are prevalent in Ontario is underway, according to Eugenia Banks, potato specialist with the Ontario Potato Board.
Published in Diseases
An automated spore trap has been developed in the U.K. which could change the way disease monitoring is done for crops and help farmers target fungicide applications better. 
Published in Diseases

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada scientist Louis-Pierre Comeau is sifting his way through New Brunswick soil in search of answers to one of the biggest issues facing local farmers: the loss of soil organic matter and the decrease of soil health in farm fields.

Published in Soil
EU-funded scientists have discovered genetic markers that could allow potatoes to be selected for their ability to be stored at low temperatures, keeping them fresh and avoiding the use of anti-sprouting chemicals.
Published in Research
Leading U.K. agronomy specialists, Levity CropScience, based at Myerscough College in Bilsborrow, recently unveiled their industry changing research at the British Potato exhibition in Harrogate.

Based on independent field trials, from 2015 to 2017, Levity has demonstrated that their product, Potato Lono, increases potato yields by up to $1,000 per hectare. Trials were held in England, Ireland, Netherlands, and France.

Potato Lono improves photosynthesis, and helps crops increase carbon efficiency during times of stress, improving tuber initiation and bulking. This can result in increased tuber numbers, when applied during tuber initiation, with trials showing increases of over 60,000 extra tubers per hectare across various potato varieties.

"We're excited to have revealed this groundbreaking data" said David Marks, Joint MD, Levity CropScience. "Our hard work has paid off and now growers around the world will be able to benefit from this research and our innovative application of this knowledge into unrivalled, pioneering fertilizer products."

Anne Weston, Joint MD, Levity CropScience added: "Over the next few weeks, we will be attending several exhibitions to meet farmers and their advisers to highlight and discuss our results, including the fantastic benefits Levity CropScience's products offer the farming and horticultural industries throughout the world. It is another example of how our innovative Lancashire company is driving research into increasing crop yields throughout the world, which will ultimately benefit both the environment and the local population."
Published in Research
Lso (zebra chip pathogen) has been detected in small numbers of potato psyllids in two sites in Alberta, but no zebra chip symptoms or pathogen has been found in any potato plant tissue yet.

During three years of sampling for potato psyllids (Bactericera cockerelli) across Canada, we found
small numbers in Alberta (2015-2017, increasing annually), Saskatchewan (first time in 2016), and
Manitoba (first adults, 2016). No potato psyllids have been found on sample cards from any sites
east of Manitoba.

In southern Alberta, the range of potato psyllids has expanded to sites throughout the potatogrowing area, where in 2017 they appeared on sampling cards of over 70 per cent of 45 sites regularly sampled (we thank the growers for co-operation and access to University of Lethbridge samplers at 45 sites, with a minimum of 4 sampling cards per field, and Crop Diversification Centre South for managing two additional sites and sending sample cards). For the full story, click here

Published in Crop Protection
Israel's NRGene recently announced it was working with a team of researchers from Wageningen University and Research in the Netherlands as well as commercial partners to create multi-genome mapping of potatoes.
Published in News
While there are no "silver bullets" for combating wireworm, with ongoing research, Island farmers do have more options.

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.
Published in Crop Protection
A genetically improved potato designed to have resistance to a devastating global plant disease has successfully come through the first year of field trials.

The field trial conducted by The Sainsbury Laboratory (TSL) in Norwich involves incorporating late blight resistant genes from a wild potato relative into a cultivated Maris Piper potato. READ MORE
Published in News
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
Published in Technology
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.
Published in Traits and Genetics
In an effort to shine a light on the current status of herbicide resistance in Canada, Top Crop Manager (TCM) has launched the Herbicide Use Survey!

As an industry leader providing up-to-date information and research, TCM is looking to gather input from producers across the country in order to develop a more thorough understanding of the state of herbicide resistance in Canada.

TCM's Herbicide Use Survey will offer participants the ability to help tell the story of these important crop protection tools by having farmers like you share how herbicides are being used.

The survey takes less than 10 minutes to complete, and will ask details like soil and farm acreage, types of weeds being targeted, as well as management practices. All submissions will remain anonymous.

Those who complete the survey will be entered into a random draw for a $500 visa card! Complete the survey here.

The Herbicide Use Survey ends December 8th. Results will be collected and presented at the 2018 Herbicide Resistance Summit in Saskatoon, Sask., on February 27 and 28.

Published in News
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.
Published in Research
A company started by six Mount Allison students sees a place for potato peels in furniture, flooring and ceiling tiles.

Enviroot's goal is to reduce waste by using food remains, especially potato peelings, to make a safe material for use in the home.

The company received a national business prize of $20,000 from Enactus Canada, a student-led entrepreneurial organization, and the McCain Social Enterprise Project Partnership to get the project going this summer.

"We use the potato peels that we get from McCain Foods here in New Brunswick in our particle board as a kind of filler," said Justin Trueman, Enviroot CEO and fourth-year biology student.

The potato peels are plasticized by melting them a little bit, and a bond between the potato peels' particles is created.

This allows them to bind products together without need of formaldehyde, which is the glues of some household furnishings, walls and stairs made from composite wood materials. READ MORE
Published in News

 A new three-year trial will evaluate which new technologies work best in organic crop cultivation in terms of weed control, nutrient management and pest and pathogen control. Photo by Roger Henry/AAFC.

It’s no surprise the demand for organic potatoes is growing in North America and beyond, as demand for all types of organic food is on the rise. Canada’s organic potato acreage is increasing to meet the demand, but there has been little Canadian research to date on the agronomy or economics of organic potato production.

Studies from the United States have found that organic production with well-managed crop rotations can be just as – or more – profitable than conventional potato production systems. While rotation is a key integrated management technique, others include fertility management from organic sources such as manure and compost, alternative pest control, and weed management via mechanical cultivation or flaming.

To investigate further, a team at the Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada (AAFC) Harrington Research Farm in Prince Edward Island have completed a four-year study comparing the economic performance of seven different four-year organic potato rotations to a conventional potato rotation. The trial lasted from 2008 to 2011 and the results are just now being published, says Roger Henry, the senior technician involved with the project. “Seven organic rotations were developed with various crop combinations to help control pests and soil-borne diseases, and to maintain nutrient levels,” he notes. “Each rotation included at least two cash crops during the four seasons and two different pest/disease-suppressive crops, including brown mustard and buckwheat for wireworm, pearl millet and alfalfa for nematodes, canola and winter rape for rhizoctonia and sorghum sudangrass for verticillium wilt.”

The study results confirm what has been found in other studies elsewhere: despite lower tuber yields, organic potato production generally results in higher net revenues than a conventional potato system, mainly due to the high price premium received for organic potatoes and other organic crop products in P.E.I. However, the net revenues are not significantly higher.

“The rotation with the highest return in this study included carrots (potato, mixed grain, carrots and pearl millet),” Henry says. “However, while the yield and net revenue of the carrots boosted the overall revenue of that rotation, the yield and the net revenue for carrots was the most variable of all the crops studied. That’s something to think about.”

And while Henry’s study results point to organic potato farming as a viable business under the current price premium, he says the results also show conventional potato systems could produce similar economic benefits to organic when a traditional three-year potato-cereal-green manure rotation is used. “That’s assuming they continue to get good yields with three-year rotations, which does not always happen, and that yields of the organic potatoes stay at 60 per cent of the conventional,” he explains. “I believe we can achieve yields at least at 75 per cent of the conventional yield and more during some years, if we choose the right varieties and perfect our management of the crop while it’s in the ground. If we achieve these yields, then conventional three-year rotation will not be as profitable as a four-year organic one.”

Henry also stresses during the transition to organic certification, financial losses can occur because yields are lower and the producer does not have the benefit of organic price premiums until they are certified.

“This transition period is hard from a financial perspective, which is one of the reasons some producers are hesitant to go organic,” he says. “There is also more extensive management associated with organic production, with new skills to learn and knowledge to accumulate compared to conventional. There are also very few people one can talk to about production issues.”

An important caveat to this study is that it occurred in the first four years after full transition to organic was achieved. “It’s possible that differences observed in the first four years may not reflect long-term crop performance,” Henry explains. “Generally over time, if the soil is managed well, organic soils will become more productive and that would reflect in higher cash crop yields overall.”

“There is also the possibility that if not managed well, soils could become depleted of certain soil nutrients, and increased pest problems [could occur] in certain rotations,” he adds.

New research
A three-year organic study was undertaken this year in P.E.I. to evaluate which new technologies work best in organic crop cultivation, including potatoes. The trial is examining nutrient management as well as weed, pest and pathogen control, with an eye on economics. It includes more cash crops than the 2008 to 2011 trial, and is focused on developing cropping guidelines for no-till soybeans, silage, grain corn, edible beans and squash as well as potatoes.  

“Nitrogen and phosphorus are two essential nutrients which tend to be most limiting in organic systems,” says Vernon Rodd, who is heading the study with Aaron Mills at AAFC Charlottetown. “We are using anion exchange membranes to track nutrient availability during the growing season for a number of crops including forages, potatoes and corn.”

The team is also analyzing phospholipid fatty acid profiles in soil samples to measure the makeup of the functional soil community under the various rotations. In addition, the study includes a look at various organic weed control options, including flaming, mechanical control and timing of the cultivation.

“As organic demand continues to grow, we hope to provide more information on the economics and best practices,” Henry says. “Potato growers can use this, and other, information to decide if organic production is something they want to pursue.”




Published in Business Management

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