Monthly Archives: September 2017

Farm Frites launches sweet potato fries

Dutch-based Farm Frites has added a new sweet potato French fry to its range, claiming that the new line has a longer chip length and shorter cooking time than other offerings.

It is hoped that the new product will help boost the profitability of caterers by giving them a product which makes consumers want to trade up. “The retail market in the UK has seen a 120 per cent year-on-year uplift in sweet potato sales and the trend to upgrade to a premium side order continues to be strong,” explained the firm’s marketing manager for the UK and Ireland, Nic Townsend.

“Our sweet potato fry cooks in just one and a half to two minutes but this speed is not at the expense of taste. This chip has a fluffy texture, a crunchy bite and a quality taste… We’ve designed this fry to be longer than standard to continue the premium theme.”

“Consumers like premiumisation and the ability to customise their meal. Sweet potato is not just a popular choice that customers expect to see on a menu, it’s a profitable choice for operators who can make a good margin on a simple product upgrade.”

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Proposed new fees for plant inspections

The Fresh Produce Consortium has reported that Animal and Plant Health Agency in England and Wales (APHA) has published its proposed changes to its charging structure and fees.

One of the aims of the proposals is that fees will be more closely aligned to the cost of delivering services so that all eligible costs are fully recovered. Among the services covered by the proposals are:

  • inspection of imported plants and plant material and sampling and testing of potatoes imported from Egypt and the Lebanon;
  • seed potato certification;
  • plant passporting;
  • export certification;
  • plant health licensing and
  • certification of fruit propagating material.

The consultation can be found here and runs until 31 October 2017.

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CRISPR technology used to change flower colour

Japanese scientists have used the revolutionary CRISPR, or CRISPR/Cas9, genome-editing tool to change flower colour in an ornamental plant, the first time the technique has been used for such a purpose.

Researchers from the University of Tsukuba, the National Agriculture and Food Research Organization (NARO) and Yokohama City University, Japan, altered the flower colour of Japanese morning glory (Ipomoea nil or Pharbitis nil), from violet to white, by disrupting a single gene. Japanese morning glory, or Asagao, was chosen as it is one of two traditional horticultural model plants in the National BioResource Project in Japan (NBRP).

The research team targeted a single gene, dihydroflavonol-4-reductase-B (DFR-B), encoding an anthocyanin biosynthesis enzyme, that is responsible for the colour of the plant’s stems, leaves and flowers. Two other, very closely related genes (DFR-A and DRF-C) sit side-by-side, next to DFR-B.

The CRISPR (Clustered Regularly Interspaced Short Palindromic Repeats)/Cas9 system is based on a bacterial defence mechanism. It is composed of two molecules that alter the DNA sequence. Cas9, an enzyme, cuts the two strands of DNA in a precise location so that DNA can be added or removed. Cas9 is guided to the correct location by a small piece of RNA that has been designed to be complementary to the target DNA sequence. Currently, CRISPR/Cas9 technology is not 100% efficient, but the mutation rate in this study, 75%, however, was relatively high.

Photo Caption: Morning glory flowers

Photo Credit: tamayura39 / Fotolia

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Dow and DuPont complete merger

Multinational chemical companies Dow and DuPont have finalised their $130 billion merger, with the new company, DowDuPont trading on the New York Stock Exchange from 1 September.

“Today marks a significant milestone in the storied histories of our two companies,” said Andrew Liveris, executive chairman of DowDuPont. “While our collective heritage and strength are impressive, the true value of this merger lies in the intended creation of three industry powerhouses that will define their markets and drive growth for the benefit of all stakeholders.”

The company’s Board has established three Advisory Committees to oversee the establishment of each of the new Agriculture, Materials Science (Dow) and Specialty Products divisions in preparation for separation into separate companies. The proposed agricultural company will combine the activities of DuPont Pioneer, DuPont Crop Protection and Dow AgroSciences. According to DowDuPont, ‘The combined capabilities and highly productive innovation engine will enable the intended Agriculture Company to bring a broader suite of products to the market faster, so it can be an even better partner to growers, delivering innovation and helping them to increase their productivity and profitability.’

Photo Caption: Andrew Liveris is the new CEO of the combined company

Photo Credit: Dow

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All-new Landini orchard/vineyard tractors for National Fruit Show

An all-new range of Landini orchard and vineyard tractors will be launched at the National Fruit Show in October.

The new Rex 4 Series tractors bring a greater choice of models, new transmission configurations (including three-speed powershift on power shuttle versions) an improved operator environment in the new cab and optional front axle suspension for the first time. They can be recognised by a sleek new appearance.

In terms of overall size, base configurations and power outputs, the new Landini Rex 4 Series mirrors the current Rex. The ‘F’ models are narrow orchard tractors (down to 1.3m wide), the ‘GE’ versions (minimum operating width 1.35m) have a have a lower stance for added stability, and the ‘GT’ has the wider axles and larger wheel options suitable for wide orchards. In addition, the new ‘V’ models can be configured down to just 1m wide.

A 2.9-litre compact four-cylinder engine provides the power, meeting emissions rules without exhaust filtration or urea injection. It provides 12-15% more torque at the lower end, which the manufacturer says translates into livelier performance under load with attractive fuel economy. The engine is coupled to a new Eco 40kph transmission with four-speed PTO options. Larger fuel tanks, the option of a suspension front axle, and all new cab layouts complete the revamp.

Photo Caption: The new Rex 4 Series vineyard models can get down to 1m yet there is a 111hp version

Photo Credit: Landini

RAU vice-chancellor says farming must shed ‘tweedy’ image

The vice-chancellor of the Royal Agricultural University (RAU) at Cirencester, Joanna Price, has said that farming must shed its image of tweed land owners if the industry is to survive Brexit.

Professor Price told The Times, “We have an image of being populated by men wearing tweed jackets with leather patches and yellow cords. Hopefully, having a face like mine at the university will change that.” She grew up on a smallholding in Wales and started her career as a veterinary surgeon.

The comments drew a mixed response on social media and elsewhere in the farming press, with some ex RAU university students saying the university needed to sort out its own image first: in a Tatler article last year one student boasted about owning nine Schöffel fleece gilets. However, many farmers agreed that agriculture needs to do much more to educate the public and potential employees about how dynamic and science-led it is.

Photo Caption: Professor Joanna Price

Photo Credit: Royal Agricultural University

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EU launches consultation on ‘fairer food supply chain’

The European Commission is launching an EU-wide public consultation on how to make the EU food supply chain fairer.

Farmers, citizens and other interested parties are invited to share their views on the functioning of the food supply chain through an online consultation that runs until 17 November.

The EC says, “There are indications that the added value in the food supply chain is not adequately distributed across all levels of the chain due, for instance, to differences in bargaining power between smaller and thus more vulnerable operators including farmers and small businesses, and their economically stronger and highly concentrated commercial partners.”

It added that, the input received from the consultation will complement work on the simplification and modernisation of the CAP.


The post EU launches consultation on ‘fairer food supply chain’ appeared first on Hort News on 31 August.

British Summer Fruits comments on latest migration figures

British Summer Fruits has warned that the latest official net migration figures from the Office of National Statistics are evidence of the damage that Brexit is causing to the UK soft fruit sector.

The migration figures showed a fall in net migration of 81,000 to 246,000 in the 12 months to March 2017, with an additional 33,000 leaving the country during the period. Most of these were EU citizens, with EU net migration falling by 51,000 to 127,000 within the period.

“The new figures released today on net migration are worrying evidence of the impact Brexit will have on EU nationals working in Britain,” said Laurence Olins, chairman of British Summer Fruits. “For the soft fruit industry, this confirms our own recent data, which shows that in some areas up to 20 percent of seasonal workers are leaving our farms and returning home due to the uncertainly of Brexit and the fall of the pound against the euro.

“In addition, recent data that we have collected reveals that nearly 80 percent of our growers have experienced early leavers and nearly 50 percent of growers put this down to Brexit. Brexit is already having a negative impact on our industry.” He called on the government to work faster to resolve the issue, for example by introducing a new Seasonal Workers Permit scheme.

Photo Caption: The soft fruit industry is concerned that a loss of EU migrants could lead to harvesting problems.

The post British Summer Fruits comments on latest migration figures appeared first on Hort News on 31 August.

Third of horticulture businesses ‘unviable’ without EU labour

A new landmark study from the UK food and drink supply chain suggests that up to a third of UK horticultural businesses would be ‘unviable’ without access to EU workers, while 17 per cent would consider locating overseas in their search for labour.

Produced by the Food and Drink Federation (FDF) and Fresh Produce Consortium (FPC), the report claims that 20 per cent of the two million EU nationals currently living in the UK are employed by the country’s £110 billion food and drink industry.

Nigel Jenny, FPC CEO, commented, “The fresh produce industry provides a diverse range of food & flowers all year round to our multicultural nation. The report highlights the sector’s major concerns regarding availability of labour and highlights the serious consequences of failure.

“Food security and the ongoing supply of safe, affordable food must be a critical element of UK Government’s Brexit delivery plan. As a sector we depend on our committed workforce, and we need government to provide clear assurances to our EU workers and UK businesses.  This is now time critical to safeguard future supply of fresh produce and flowers!”

The report also revealed that almost half (47 per cent) of businesses surveyed said EU nationals were considering leaving the UK due to uncertainty surrounding their future.

Ian Wright CBE, Director General of the Food & Drink Federation, added: “Food is a matter of national security, so the results of this report are of central concern to businesses across the ‘farm to fork’ industries. It is only a matter of time before the uncertainty reported by businesses results in an irreversible exit of EU workers from these shores. Without our dedicated and valued workforce we would be unable to feed the nation. This is why it is imperative that we receive assurances from Government about their future, and that of our wider workforce.”

Photo Caption: The new report highlights labour issues in the food chain

Photo Credit: FPC / FDF

The post Third of horticulture businesses ‘unviable’ without EU labour appeared first on Hort News on 31 August.

Scab continues to be a concern for packing crops

According to AHDB Potatoes, scab continues to be a concern for crops of packing potatoes in England.

In its Potato Weekly bulletin last Friday, the organisation said that despite widespread showers, many crops had been burnt off in the east of England. ‘Yields have been good in general with good tuber size and numbers,’ said, adding that ‘scab was common around the early season; however, much of this fear has abated for later crops, although those from the sandier soils are suffering.’

Scab was also reported in the west, along with hollow heart, but was said to be less prevalent in the south of England. ‘In Scotland, many crops were burnt down in readiness for harvesting in the weeks to come and to control oversize tubers in some crops. The first continual supplies of local set-skinned material are now being packed, with quality reported to be excellent,’ the report finished.

Photo Caption: Common scab on potato

Photo Credit: AHDB potatoes

The post Scab continues to be a concern for packing crops appeared first on Hort News on 31 August.