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Numbers don't lie

The national and individual state statistics are in for the total number of acres planted in potatoes for 2010. Scroll down for an article that follows this column with the national and statewide figures.

Here in Idaho the United Potato Growers of Idaho (UPGI) released its statewide acreage count on July 7. UPGI’s press release stated that their six counting teams surveyed over 3 million acres and counted 292,571 acres of potatoes. The lowest number of acres planted in Idaho since 1965.

The USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) issued a slightly higher and rounded up figure of 295,000 acres.

One Idaho grower I spoke with on Friday, after the NASS released its calculations, described the UPGI and NASS stats as “break-even” numbers.

The farmer didn’t want to be quoted for the record but said that the year could yet be profitable for growers. He reasoned that last year’s record yields were an anomaly, an aberration that we won’t be seeing again any time soon.

He also reasoned that current fields planted are about 7 to 10 days behind schedule due to Idaho’s inclement weather this spring, that could result in another negative impact in the total yield produced in the state.

He’s counting on lower yields to help bring a little stability to the fall market.

UPGI will be conducting field digs in August to get an early assessment on the fall yields. I’m sure everyone will be waiting for those numbers to be released.

First impression seem to indicate that we won’t be seeing the over-abundance that we witnessed last year but there should be more than adequate supply to meet current demand.

The question remains though, will this be enough of a reduction to bring about a profitable ROI?


Sprout Inhibitors

There’s been recent advances in sprout inhibitors and there appears to be more advances to come in the next 12 months. There appears to be a growing emphasis in moving away from CIPC or at the very least using less of the popular sprout inhibitor.

On June 17, the Amvac Chemical Corp. announced plans to release a new potato sprout inhibitor called SmartBlock in the second quarter of 2011.

SmartBlock is a biopesticide that uses the active ingredient 3-decen-2-one, an unsaturated aliphatic ketone.

Amvac has made a joint regulatory submission with the EPA and Canada’s Pest Management Regulatory Agency. They have also submitted an exemption from a requirement of tolerance for the active ingredient.

“Since it has already been classified as a biopesticide, it should be exempt,” said John Immaraju, Amvac’s global project manager for SmartBlock.

Immaraju said that one of SmartBlock’s features is that it can be applied after potatoes have broken dormancy.

“That allows the storage manager to leverage the natural dormancy of potatoes,” Immaraju said. “Unlike CIPC which must be used as a prophylactic to prevent tubers from sprouting, SmartBlock is used to inhibit sprout growth only when tubers have actually broken dormancy.”

SmartBlock is applied through conventional thermal fogging systems and two emulsifiable concentrates, 90 percent EC and 67.5 percent EC, will be made available for direct spraying of fresh market potatoes to prevent sprouting in the consumer retail channel.

Another new product on the 2011 horizon is Fresh Pack 50 EC. After a limited introduction this spring, Aceto Corporation, based in Lake Success, N.Y., is gearing up for a U.S.-wide distribution the spring of next year.

Terry Kippley, assistant vice president of marketing, said that the product has been in development for about three years and overall response has been very good.

“This is a tool that will help our customers be able to achieve that mission of delivering a high quality product to that fresh pack buyer,” Kippley said.

Fresh Pack 50 is a combination of clove oil and Aceto’s proprietary formulation technology. It is injected in an in-line system.

It’s designed to be co-applied with either Shield 3EC or Shelf Life 2EC.

“What’s great about it,” Kippley said, “if you need it, you can apply this product as it goes through the washing cycle, as the potatoes are being prepared for packaging. If you don’t have a need, if your storage program is working well and potatoes are coming out and there’s not a need, you don’t have to use it but if you do have these buds and peepers and you need to remove them, blacken them, prepare them for shipment, you can.”

Pace International, producers of a wide variety of sprout inhibiting products under the Biox label: Biox-15EC, Biox-40EC, Biox-C, a sprout inhibitor using clove oil, their most recent addition to their line of products, Biox-Combo.

Biox-Combo comes in a ready to use liquid formulation and is applied via thermal fogging. Using both clove oil and CIPC to utilize the sprout killing efficacy of clove oil and the growth inhibiting power of CIPC.

Roberto Carpentier, vice-president of sales and marketing for Pace, said the clove oil is a very good product to formulate with CIPC and it aids in the distribution of the fogging of the potatoes.

“It (clove oil) helps in getting a better distribution in the fog. Now you’re fogging a liquid. You’re not thermal fogging a solid,” Carpentier said.

“Our applicators and our research are starting to show that you may have the same efficacy to control sprouting when you use the combo by using less CIPC,” he said.

On the 2011 horizon for Pace is BioxM, a sprout inhibitor using mint oil. The company is making plans to launch BioxM into the marketplace next year, Carpentier said.


Market Report

Initial reports from the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service (NASS) and United Potato Growers national and state organizations indicate that total acreage planted in potatoes is down 4 percent nationally, with the three major producers, Idaho, Washington and Oregon making significant cuts in overall potato production in fall plantings.

The USDA released its projections on July 9. According to the press release “potato growers across the United States planted an estimated 1.03 million acres of potatoes in all four seasons of the 2010 crop, down 4 percent from the previous year.”

Additionally, the USDA estimates that there are 896,100 acres in fall plantings of potatoes, also down 4 percent from 2009.

The three potato growing states in the Northwest reported acreage decreases of 8 percent in Idaho, 7 percent in Washington and 5 percent in Oregon.

According to NASS, Idaho growers planted and estimated 295,000 acres, the fewest number of acres planted in Idaho since 1980.

On July 7, United Potato Growers of Idaho announced an even lower calculation of acres planted with an estimation of 292,571 acres, the least amount of acres planted by Idaho growers since 1965.

“This year represents a rebalancing for Idaho growers,” United Potato Growers of Idaho chairman Carl Taylor was quoted in the press release saying, “with last year’s returns falling below the cost of production, this acreage reflects that growers are adjusting their operations accordingly to address those losses.”

Of the eight other major potato producing states, only New York and Minnesota showed a significant drop in production. New York showed a decrease of 5 percent and Minnesota showed a decrease of almost 9 percent.

While other major producers such as Colorado, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Maine and Michigan showed decreases of 1 to 2 percent.

Only North Dakota, among the 11 major potato producing states, showed an increase in planting this year. The High Plains state shows an increase of 8 percent to 90,000 acres for 2010 from 83,000 acres in 2009.

Lee Frankel, president and CEO of United Potato Growers of America, issued a press release praising growers for “becoming more focused on growing for known markets.”

However, Frankel also issued this warning regarding the current state of the industry.

“If processing use of potatoes in the Pacific Northwest stabilizes relative to last year, total supplies have the potential to be in balance for all sectors. If processing use continues to decline sharply and yields are above expected, then even the cuts that in acreage may not be enough,” Frankel said.

In other news, Bruce Huffaker’s North American Potato Market News (NAPMN) reports that summer potato shipments are likely to be less then last year. Kansas planted 10 percent less acres than last year with more of this year’s crop headed for processing use. The heat and drought on the eastern seaboard appears to have impacted yields in Virginia.

NAPMN reports that Colorado, Wisconsin and the Columbia Basin are cleaning out their storage Russets earlier this year than last year but anticipates near-record volume of Idaho storage russets to hit the market in July and August.


Dimole releases new PVY detection system

Dimole Inc., based out of Laval, Quebec, recently released the DIM-Array PVY PLRV system for the simultaneous detection of PVY and PLRV from dormant tubers.

Dimole describes their innovation as a Multiplex Hybridization System that offers advanced DNA-based simultaneous detection of PVY, including strains of PVY-O, PVY-N and PVY-NTN, PLRV and Internal Control from dormant potato tubers, eliminating the need for grow-up of sample plants.

The high sensitivity and specificity of the system allow for testing of a group, or composite, of dormant tubers in a single assay within 8 hours.

Dimole’s new method of testing allows for the testing of hundreds of samples and composite samples, including core, leaf, sprout, plantlet, stem section and tuber samples can be tested in a single assay within 8 hours. An Internal control is integrated into the system to avoid false negative results.

There is no need to break the dormancy of the virus, eliminating the need for grow-up sample plants.

For more information call 902-314-5340 or visit the Dimole website at