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An international group of potato researchers joins forces to improve yield

Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada is leading a team of international potato researchers to look at major causes of potato yield losses


Fredericton, N.B. – A Canadian-led international potato research effort received a $1.83-million funding boost from the federal government.

The research will focus on giving potato farmers a technological edge in predicting and PotatoFarm295x177preventing yield losses in their fields and in storage.

“This is a great example of bio-technology being used to develop innovative strategies to meet challenges in one of our traditional sectors,” says Meagan Seagrave, executive director at BioNB, one of the project partners.

“We look forward to working with our partners and commercializing the resulting technologies that will lead to increased yields and overall profits for farmers and a stronger and more sustainable potato industry.”

Scientists at Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Potato Research Centre in Fredericton will be leading the research efforts. Researchers from Canada, France and New Zealand will use the new discoveries about potato DNA, microbial life in the soil and insect behaviour to find better ways to measure the health and quality of potato plants and tubers.

The research will focus on three major causes of potato yield loss:
• the spread of the virus PVY by aphids;
• potato common scab caused by a bacterial disease; and
• a condition in storage called cold sweetening that reduces the colour quality of potatoes when they are fried.

The larger goals are to find methods to decrease diseases in the field and to have research that can be used by software and hardware developers to create hand-held diagnostic devices for potato farmers. The instruments could be used to quickly sample plants and tubers in the field and storage for a wide range of health and quality issues.

Project partners include:
• Fredericton-based BioNB;
• France-based Comité Nord Plants des Pommes de Terre;
• Péribonka, Que.-based potato operations Ferme Daniel Bolduc Inc. and Saint-Paul de Joliette, Que.-based Maxi-Sol Inc.;
• Plant and Food Research New Zealand;
• Potatoes New Brunswick; and
• France-based company CCL.

Each of the partners has a role in the research project.

For example, the Comité Nord Plants de Pommes de Terre, representing 100 researchers and 450 potato producers in France, is investing an additional $180,000 in the project.

Ferme Daniel Bolduc is a potato growing operation. Maxi-Sol is a potato farm. Both have invested in the project and will be in involved in field plot research.

Plant and Food Research New Zealand is a crown research institute that will help evaluate the cold storage management of potatoes and look for genetic indicators of resistance to cold sweetening.

CCL produces mineral and vegetable oils that can be sprayed on potato plants to prevent the spread of disease by aphids. The company will join in research to find out exactly why the technique works in order to develop improved field treatments. Oil spraying as a defense against PVY was pioneered by Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Potato Research Centre.

Potatoes New Brunswick is a producer organization that will be involved in the research into the use of mineral and vegetable oils as a way to inhibit the transmission of PVY by aphids.

BioNB is a not-for-profit agency supporting and promoting innovative bio-economy opportunities in New Brunswick. In this project, it will be looking at commercialization opportunities for Canada in the North American market.

Potato image courtesy of SOMMAI at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

 


Deanna Rosolen

Deanna Rosolen

Managing Editor, Food in Canada
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