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Head start for young potatoes

Head start for young potatoes

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Danger lurks as soon as the first sprouts emerge from the tuber: the fungus Rhizoctonia solani causes considerable harvest losses and also covers any potatoes that do reach maturity with dark patches. Researchers at Bayer CropScience have now developed a new active substance which provides seed potatoes with an effective protective coating, promotes plant growth and thus increases the market value.



Bungert/Bayer AG (4), Bayer CropScience/Bayer AG, Scottish Agronomy. 2012.



Danger lurks as soon as the first sprouts emerge from the tuber: the fungus Rhizoctonia solani causes considerable harvest losses and also covers any potatoes that do reach maturity with dark patches. Researchers at Bayer CropScience have now developed a new active substance which provides seed potatoes with an effective protective coating, promotes plant growth and thus increases the market value.



Bungert/Bayer AG (4), Bayer CropScience/Bayer AG, Scottish Agronomy. 2012.

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Published by: Jorge Luis Alonso Gonzalez on Feb 13, 2013
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09/17/2013

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Danger lurks as soon as the first sprouts emerge from the tuber: the fungus Rhizoctonia solani causes consid-erable harvest losses and also covers any potatoes that do reach maturity with dark patches. Researchers at Bayer CropScience have now developed a new active substance which provides seed potatoes with an effective protective coating, promotes plant growth and thus increases the market value.
Appearances are important – evenwhen it comes to choosing potatoes.Wrinkled areas, black patches and dif-ferent sizes may be irrelevant in terms
of human health, but our standards for
these popular tubers have risen consid-
erably in recent years. “Food retailersare becoming more discerning. Con-sumers prefer evenly shaped potatoeswhose skins are free from fungi andother diseases,” explains Albert Schir-ring, Segment Manager for Potatoes & Vegetables at Bayer CropScience. Mar-
tin Stothard can also confirm Schirring’s
verdict. The Senior Field Services Man-ager of major British potato producerBranston rolls one oval tuber afteranother like a ball between his thumband forefinger. He scrutinizes the newharvest for blemishes. Quality require-ments for this popular crop are rising,and not just in the United Kingdom –
potato farmers worldwide are expected
Innovative ungicide with additive eect protects popular tubers
Head start
for young potatoes
Harvest time: only a few potatoes are sold straight away. Most of them are first stored forseveral months. During this time, they may become infected by fungi. Karl-Wilhelm Münks(photo, right) and Anne Suty-Heinze work with young potato plants in the greenhouse withthe aim of developing a new product to strengthen the maturing potatoes and protect themagainst fungal infestation.
    P    h   o    t   o   s   :    S   a    b    i   n   e    B   u   n   g   e   r    t     /    B   a   y   e   r    A    G     (    4     ) ,    B   a   y   e   r    C   r   o   p    S   c    i   e   n   c   e     /    B   a   y   e   r    A    G ,    S   c   o    t    t    i   s    h    A   g   r   o   n   o   m   y
to achieve ever higher standards. Nomatter whether they are small roundtubers with a pale skin or large oblongpotatoes suitable for processing into
French fries and chips; the potato is the
third most important crop in the world
after wheat and rice.
Particularly when buying “raw mate-rials” for finished products such asdumplings or puree – which even in
the rice strongholds of Asia are becom-
ing increasingly popular – processorswant evenly shaped tubers. “The grow-ing expectations require farmers to becompletely flexible,” says Karl-WilhelmMünks, project leader at Bayer Crop-Science in Monheim. “Seed potatogrowers really have to identify trendstwo years in advance and respond
accordingly.” Even so, the most sophis-
ticated planning can quickly come tonaught if tiny fungal hyphae strike.“The fungal pest Rhizoctonia solani
affects potatoes even in the early stageof growth, initially targeting the young
plants,” explains Anne Suty-Heinze, acrop protection researcher at Bayer
CropScience. Affected sprouts then have
brown patches, wither and form mis-shapen or no tubers. The evidence can
be seen under the electron microscope:
the fungal hyphae position themselvesmainly around the sprouting parts of the potato – what are known as theeyes. “From there, the fungus attacksthe fresh sprouts directly, inhibitingtheir growth,” says Suty-Heinze. Thetuber then invests all its energy intoits remaining sprouts, with the resultthat the other potatoes are larger than
wanted.
But there’s more: Rhizoctonia alsostrikes for a second time during thepotato season. The hyphae remain onthe surface of the newly grown tubers
and cover them with black crusts. “This
is not only a cosmetic problem, but also
harbors the risk of transmitting thedisease to the next potato generationand to other fields,” explains Münks.
He therefore recommends that farmers
should allow a break of several yearsbetween potato crops. “So Rhizocto-nia infestation means a reduced yield– and also fewer tubers which meetthe requirements of the food indus-try in terms of size and skin quality,”he says. His colleagues in Researchhave therefore responded to the chal-lenge. In 2002, Suty-Heinze and herteam heard from research colleaguesin Japan about a new active substance
Rising standards demandfexibility rom armers
16
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Agriculture
 
17
   B  a  y  e  r  r  e  s  e  a  r  c   h _   2   4
 
oped active substance evenly distributed
all over the tubers, providing optimum
protection for the young sprouts.
Tests clearly show that penflufen isdistributed locally beneath the groundin the tuber and on the sprouts. “Thisis different to other active substanceswhich are quickly distributed systemi-cally via the xylem – the pathways bywhich nutrients are carried throughthe plants – and therefore also reachthe parts above the ground,” explainsSuty-Heinze. As a result, only very tiny
amounts of active substance are needed,
as they remain precisely where they areneeded to protect the young tubers.
that could have an effect on the fungal
pest Rhizoctonia: penflufen, an active
substance for seed treatment. “Potatoes
that have been treated with it have aclear head start,” explains Suty-Heinze.
Seed potatoes treated with penflufen –
the process is known in technical terms
as seed dressing – get the newly devel-
Potatoes under the microscope: while biology lab assistant Simone Leonard and Dr. Friedrich Kerz-Möhlendick (photo, left)study plant and fungal tissue under the microscope, Karl-Wilhelm Münks (photo, right) inspects the mature tubers in thegreenhouse, as the fungus Rhizoctonia solani leaves visible symptoms – dark patches – on the skin.
Major potato producers around the globe
Potatoes are grown in more than one hundred countries. The map of the world shows the most important producers on the individual continents (in millions of tons). As potato production requires relatively small amounts of water (right), this crop could help us safeguard the world’s food supply.
73.2
China
34.4
 India
3.7
 Peru
4.0
 Egypt
11.6
Germany
3.4
 Brazil
2.6
 Algeria
19.7
Ukraine
2.3
 Colombia
1.8
 South Africa
31.1
 Russian Federation
5.3
 Bangladesh
19.6
 United States
4.9
 CanadaApples700Potatoes900Wheat1,300Soybeans1,800Cheese5,000
Water consumption inliters for production of onekilogram of food
Source: FAOSTAT 2011, UNESCO-IHE for Water Education, Water Footprint Network
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