Willie Kirk, Michigan State University

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PepsiCo's New Haven Research Lab

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Volunteer Potatoes

Winter hit the Midwest and East Coast early and hard this month, after a harvest season marked by rain and other inclement conditions. That resulted in quite a bit of acreage unharvested, and with the late blight outbreak this year there could be inoculum in fields next season.

Late blight only survives in the field in volunteers, and in many areas the soil temperature doesn’t get cold enough to kill them. The soil has to get to 26-27° F for three straight days to kill volunteers, which even Michigan hasn’t achieved since 2003, according to Michigan State University’s Willie Kirk.

He recommends getting tubers to the top of fields before there’s snow, which only insulates the tubers. If late blight appears in a field, Kirk says a 30-row by 100-foot area around the infection should be killed immediately.

Late blight prevention requires cultural controls: buying only certified seed, knowing the field history, testing suspected tubers, limiting late season fertilizers and effective scouting.

Chemicals work, but only if they’re applied early. Know where to look and what to look for next season to prevent another late blight outbreak.


Willie Kirk
Michigan State University
Department of Plant Pathology

When was the last time late blight was found in Michigan outside of a research plot (like the muck farm)?
In 2007 in St. Joseph – big losses, resulting in $2 million.

How should potato growes handle cull piles?
Keep cull piles as small as possible – less than 500 cwt. Larger than that and they don't freeze. Waste potatoes can be spread on fields at a rate of 400 cwt./acre and pulverized as fertilizer and to encourage freezing.

Since volunteers can cause re-inoculate a field the next season, how should growers handle volunteers or fields that weren’t harvested?
When scouting, it’s important that all of these area – cull piles, field margins and rock piles – be scouted and if volunteers are found, they have to be killed.

Volunteers are becoming more common in Michigan because the soil temperatures are not getting as cold as in the past. The soil needs to be at -3 C for three days continuous to kill volunteers, and that hasn’t happened since the 2002/03 season in Michigan. There are even volunteers cropping up in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.

What should growers look for this spring to prevent another outbreak of late blight?
Efforts must be made to monitor crops closely for the incidence of the disease. Scouting efforts should also be concentrated in areas of the field most likely to have high moisture, dew or relative humidities for the greatest length of time or areas missed by fungicide applicators. Low spots where soil moisture is highest and parts of the field shaded by windbreaks are examples of areas where scouting should be intensified.

Also, you can apply Ranman and Revus Top – as excellent products to contain epidemics.

Should growers be examining their storage treatments any differently this season?
Yes – they should be planning on Phostrol at bin-loading for long term crops.


Market Report

USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service released the first stocks report for the 2009 potato crop yesterday. December potato stocks are 9 percent higher than December 2008.

The 13 major potato states held 265 million cwt. of potatoes in storage on Dec. 1, 2009, up 9 percent from a year ago but slightly below 2007. Potatoes in storage accounted for 69 percent of the 2009 fall storage states' production.

Klamath Basin stocks totaled 4.5 million cwt. on Dec. 1, up 13 percent from a year ago. Klamath Basin stocks include potatoes stored in California and Klamath County, Ore.

Potato disappearance, at 120 million cwt., was 5 percent below Dec. 1, 2008, and down 9 percent from 2007. Season-to-date shrink and loss, at 14.1 million cwt., was up 11 percent from the same date in 2008 but 1 percent below 2007. Processors in the nine major states have used 60.9 million cwt. of potatoes this season, down 12 percent from the same period last year and down 17 percent from two years ago.

Dehy usage accounted for 11 million cwt. of the total processing, up 3 percent from last year but 14 percent below the same period in 2007


PepsiCo's New Haven Research Lab

PepsiCo announced it would open a long-term research laboratory in New Haven, Conn., with a focus on the development of healthier food and beverage products. The company also said it will fund a graduate fellowship in the M.D.-Ph.D. Program at Yale School of Medicine to support research related to nutritional science.

The opening of the new lab in Science Park, adjacent to Yale's campus, is part of a shift by PepsiCo to fundamentally improve the nutritional profile of its food and beverage portfolios. Within the past two years, the company has added world-renowned clinical scientists and experts in nutrition, food safety, epidemiology and health policy to its staff.

The group based in New Haven will focus on long-term research aimed at developing healthier foods and beverages that can improve people's overall diets. The lab will be PepsiCo's ninth global regional research center. Four centers are located in the United States with others in the United Kingdom, Mexico, China and India along with satellite centers in Thailand, Brazil and Australia.

PepsiCo has already begun its shift to a healthier portfolio of foods and beverages. For example:

  • In the United Kingdom and Europe, PepsiCo has introduced Baked Lay's and Baked Walkers with 70 percent less total fat than regular crisps.
  • In India, PepsiCo is using rice bran oil instead of palmoline oil, which has reduced saturated fats by 40 percent.
In the past three years, the company has increased its investment in research and development by 40 percent, adopted new marketing practices and acquired companies that produce foods and beverages well beyond soft drinks and chips, such as juices, dairy, hummus and nuts and seeds. The company also was an early adopter regarding health commitments to its consumers by providing a spectrum of good choices, applying the best available science and promoting healthy kids lifestyles.

In addition to the research the company is pursuing at the New Haven lab, PepsiCo also will support a fellowship in Yale School of Medicine's M.D.-Ph.D. Program. The endowment will specifically fund work that focuses on nutritional research, such as metabolic syndrome, diabetes and obesity. PepsiCo Fellows will be chosen by the Yale program's faculty based on academic performance and research interests in these relevant areas. This Fellowship will support a pipeline of new biomedical scholars who will progress to leadership positions in their fields.