Update on the R&D projects within the Australian potato pest and disease program June 2020

Click here to read more. 

Managing Pink Rot in potatoes

Click here to read more. 

Innovative Nutrient Management for the Australian Potato Industry

The project commenced in February 2014. Read the full media release (PDF).

Potato P Trials Update July 2014

Potato P Trials Update November 2014

Potatoes South Australia is pleased to announce that this project is now complete.

The project has successfully proven that a new test for measuring phosphorous in the soil, the Diffusive Gradients in Thin-films (DGT) test, is more accurate at predicting a yield response to applied phosphorous fertiliser in potatoes than the currently used soil tests.

The project came about amidst concerns that the overuse of phosphorous (P) was compromising the economic feasibility of the industry and also threatening environmental conditions.

Led by PIRSA researcher Dr Melissa Fraser, 15 replicated trials were conducted over the last two years to assess the applicability of the test. Unlike the commonly used Colwell, Olsen and Bray2 soil phosphorous tests, which in some soil types can overestimate the amount of P in the soil that is available to plants, the DGT test only measures the amount of P that the soil can freely supply for plant use.

The two distinct soils types require vastly different management practices, primarily due to the soils’ ability to tie up P fertiliser.

Results from the trials showed that over 70% of the sites had soil P concentrations sufficient to meet crop needs with no additional P fertiliser required.

The project is the first of its kind in Australia and shows what can be achieved when all members of the value chain collaborate. Whilst the field trials have been conducted only in South Australia, the results and critical DGT values are relevant nationally.

Click here for full project details including interpretation guidelines.

Click here to view a 'Farmer's Case Study'.

Click here to view the DGT Fact Sheet. 


PIRSA’S Advanced Food Manufacturing Grants (AFMG) – ‘WASTE’ Potato Transformation and STEM Project 

The University of Adelaide’s FOODplus Research Centre is conducting the project through supervisor Dr John Carragher (in collaboration with the Association) and has employed PhD student Katie Wood to help design, write and test the questionnaire that has been prepared for consumers.

This is the precursory project to the AFMG Waste potato Transformation project. The survey will explore a consumer’s insight into potatoes; nutritional knowledge, attitudes and preferences.

The online survey company “Pureprofile” has been chosen to host the survey and to recruit up to 1,200 eligible people on its existing database in order to answer the survey. The de-identified data will be provided to the researchers. Third year Bachelor of Food and Nutrition Science students will help to analyse the data during December 2015 as part of their nutrition work experience placement.

This information will be used to help us create the ‘recipes for success’ from graded out potatoes.

The STEM project is now complete.  Click here to read the final report.

SARMS Transforming Riverland Food Loss and Industry Waste into Profit 

Joint Project Managers Dr Vince O’Brien (Australian Wine Research Institute (AWRI) GM Business Development) and Dr Steve Lapidge (PIRSA-SARDI) are thrilled to announce that this project has been successfully funded and will commence with a meeting of the Project Advisory Committee early in the New Year.

Together with Citrus Australia, Yalumba Family Vignerons, Pernod Ricard Winemakers, Treasury Wine Estates, Accolade Wines, Regional Development Australia Riverland and HIA Ltd; Potatoes South Australia is a member of this Committee and a partner in the project.

The project will involve the following:

  1. Expanding the recent AusIndustry mapping of current food loss and industry waste streams including volumes, seasons, current utilisation practices and prices received in the Riverland and Murray Mallee area;
  2. Evaluating existing potential waste transformation infrastructure and availability in the Riverland (processing and technical) to support transformation of food loss and industry waste into higher value products and/or bioenergy;
  3. Characterising/bioprospecting all horticultural food loss streams to evaluate, recover and recycle valuable ingredients into high value added products within the food chain that can be used in high end applications that will potentially include processed food, pharmaceutical, nutraceutical, cosmeceuticals and other biotechnological applications;
  4. Determining what missing technology and/or infrastructure could be developed as part of the redeveloped Loxton Research Centre to increase high value waste transformation activities in the region, as well as the cost-benefit of such activities; and
  5. Conducting market insight studies to determine what regional business initiatives could best create novel product categories and brand equity that will derive premiums.

The South Australian potato industry produces approximately 385,000 tonnes of potatoes annually. It is the nation’s largest producer and contributes in excess of $440 million to State gross food revenue. South Australia also provides 80 per cent of the fresh washed market nationally, produced predominantly in the Murray Mallee region.

Twenty per cent of total production worth millions of dollars does not meet supermarket specification and is graded out as nil commercial value waste, based largely on size and shape, and is subsequently fed to livestock.

This project will provide valuable research into understanding under-valued waste streams in the potato industry and we are very pleased to continue our close working arrangement with PIRSA on this initiative.

Committee Members are:

  • Robbie Davis, CEO Potatoes South Australia Inc (Chair)
  • Alison Searle, National Environmental Manager, Accolade Wines
  • Dr Brenda Kranz, Portfolio Manager - Natural Resources and IPM, Horticulture Innovation Australia Limited
  • Gioia Small, Regional Manager Sustainability & Vintrepreneur, Treasury Wine Estates
  • Jean Macintyre, Project Manager - Wine Innovation, Pernod Ricard Winemakers
  • Mark Bell, Business Development Manager, Regional Development Australia- Riverland
  • Matthew Zadow, Winemaker, Oxford Landing Winery
  • Steve Burdette, Chair, Citrus Australia - SA Region

Watch this space for regular updates on project progress.

Potatoes South Australia has finalised the following projects:

The full projects are available in the 'Members-only' Area.

Export Strategy: Malaysia and Thailand August 2015

During 2014, and in collaboration with Potatoes South Australia, AsiaAustralis was engaged by the Commonwealth Department of Agriculture to research and prepare an Export Strategy for Australian Potatoes. This report; Export Strategy for Australian Potatoes 2014-19”, August 2014- remains under embargo and regrettably has not been released to the industry or public.

Following this Commonwealth report, AsiaAustralis was further engaged by Potatoes South Australia during 2014 – 2015 to undertake Supply Chain Mapping of Fresh and Seed Potatoes in Malaysia and Thailand. The purpose of this project was to provide unique market intelligence for South Australian producers and exporters for the long term to assist with the development of future export plans.

Potatoes South Australia undertook further research and prepared an Export Strategy for South Australian fresh and seed potatoes with a focus on Malaysia and Thailand, but not excluding other potential markets.

An Export Strategy for South Australian potato exporters needs to consider the following key issues:

  • Australia (and South Australia) is the highest price supplier of fresh and seed potato into ASEAN and specifically Malaysia and Thailand.
  • The supply window, which largely avoids the threat of lower cost suppliers except China and Egypt, is April to September.
  • Quality, surety of supply and market support are critical attributes to sustaining current, and building future, market share.
  • South Australia needs to base its Export Strategy around three sustainable strengths including:
  • Ability to provide consistent supply during the key April to September supply window.
  • Quality of produce including quality of the supply chain to market.
  • Existing business and supply chain relationships, which will discount to some extent the price disadvantages.

The findings of the study clearly indicate that, compared with international competitors, South Australian producers are substantially disadvantaged by ‘Operating Costs’ and the cost of water.

These costs are not producer specific as there are external factors contributing to the cost disadvantage over which producers have no control, especially labour, other operating and water costs. Such costs are a disadvantage and concern for the entire potato export industry that threaten the long term success of potato exports. 

Importantly, this study also dispels a wide held view that Australian producers are disadvantaged by high transport costs and having substantially higher CIF (with insurance and freight) costs than competitor countries.

It is recommended that the Strategic Alliance have the following market priorities and export goals which represent approximately 50% of the National export goals:

The following export objectives are recommended in order to achieve the above targeted export volumes and values.

  • Objective #1 - Grow South Australian potato exports in South East Asian markets where potato exporters have a comparative logistics advantage, and trade advantage (AANZFTA and Bi-lateral trade agreements).
  • Objective #2 - Strategically grow market share in South East Asia, through targeting key competitor market shares (USA, and Canada).
  • Objective #3 - Develop market demand through coordinated strategic marketing of South Australian potatoes to premium segments in the key growth markets (Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia).
  • Objective #4 - Position South Australian potatoes as the most sought after premium potato for processing, food service and premium table potato markets in South East Asia.
  • Objective #5 - Grow market share in key South East Asian markets to be the dominant exporter in the premium potato segment.

Recognising that Australian potatoes are the highest price in market, it is recommended that competition be based on the quality of South Australia’s fresh and seed potato and that marketing campaigns to achieve the above be focused on Australia’s in-market supply windows as identified in the report.

Generic Marketing in the Food Sector

This industry funded project involved researching the success of generic marketing campaigns in the Australian food sector (competing high carbohydrates and fresh category).  The marketing of potatoes internationally was also studied. The results will provide the basis for the development of a national fresh market potato promotions program which was identified as a priority in the latest SAPIT Strategic Plan.

This report validates that generic marketing works and that as a collaborative national industry, we can plan to promote the potato as a differentiated, delicious, healthy and sophisticated food, packed full of nutrients, and that we can add value to the successful campaigns already in place for individually branded product. We absolutely must stop the erosion of market share by rice and pasta and provide the consumer with accurate messages about the convenience and versatility of this extraordinary food.

Potatoes South Australia is now progressing the report's clear recommendations and will work together with key stakeholders and influencers in all states of Australia to develop the required strategic direction to increase demand for the potato, particularly in the fresh market.  Increasing demand at the consumer end of the value chain will result in increases at every link, right down to the seed grower.

It will necessitate the establishment and implementation of a national levy to fund this critical action.

Industry Workforce Development Plan

This project, funded by the South Australian Government's Department of Further Education, Employment, Science and Technology (DFEEST) involves researching the current and future workforce needs of the potato industry in South Australia. The project has adopted a whole-of-value chain approach delivering a robust workforce plan for the five key potato growing regions covering attraction, retention and skills development. The five regions are Kangaroo Island, the Mallee, the Riverland/Murraylands, the Northern Adelaide Plains and the South East.

The development of a sector workforce development plan has provided all enterprises with strategies and templates to identify actual skill needs, relevant attraction, retention and development strategies and appropriate skill development options.  This has been developed in conjunction with producers and vertically integrated companies and focuses on current and future skill needs. A series of industry workshops were conducted in the five growing regions for employers, HR managers and key personnel involved in recruiting workers for their businesses aimed at improving recruitment practices, employment incentives and skill development.

The major impact is an enhanced appreciation of managing labour and skills through a more formal planning process, integrated with business needs, which uses common industry templates and mechanisms to attract and develop the skills of its workforce. The best measurement will be the ability of each enterprise to attract suitable skilled people, retain those people and develop their skills in line with enterprise skill requirements.

One of the South Australian Government's Seven Strategic Pillars, “Premium food and wine from our clean environment” underpins this project and this industry.

South Australia is renowned nationally as the largest producer of premium potatoes from its clean water, clean air and clean soil.  Employment growth in this industry, by helping people get the right skills, must continue to be encouraged in order to maintain this reputation and to build on the current low level of exports.  The Kangaroo Island seed sector (coupled with seed growers and merchants in the Mallee and lower South East) is a burgeoning exporter of certified product from a clean, pristine environment.

Additionally, the potato must remain in the world’s top four commodities to address food security and food shortage gaps as the world demand for food rises by 70% by 2050. The South Australian and Australian industries are well positioned to take advantage of this opportunity.

This project is precursory to an industry-wide roll-out of relevant customised training to the potato industry and with a possible extension to other horticultural sectors and other Australian states.

This is a first for an industry association and is in line with the Australian Fresh Potato Industry Strategic Investment Plan and the Australian Processed Potato Industry Strategic Investment Plan 2012-2017.

In a joint media release the Minister for Agriculture, Food and Fisheries, Hon Gail Gago and the Minister for Employment, Higher Education and Skills Hon Grace Portolesi, announced that Potatoes South Australia had been awarded $43,500 to plan for the future needs across the five key potato growing regions – Kangaroo Island, the Mallee, the Riverland/Murraylands, the Northern Adelaide Plains and the South East. Click here to read the full statement.

Review of Mallee Prescribed Wells Area Water Allocation Plan (WAP)

Potatoes South Australia engaged Australian Groundwater Technologies Pty Ltd (AGT) to carry out a review of the water allocations assigned to Border Zones 9A north, 10A, 11A and Management Area Parilla Red as outlined in the Mallee Prescribed Wells Area Water Allocation Plan.  Potato producers in Zone 10A and Parilla Red have had water allocations reduced by up to 40% while potato producers in Zone 11A have had water allocations reduced by up to 50% from previous years.

The revised water allocation has resulted in limited crop development in 2013/2014 and subsequent years and does not provide sufficient flexibility for climatic variations.  The reduction in water allocation coincides with the adoption of the revised Mallee Water Allocation Plan in 2012. AGT was commissioned to carry out a review of the equitability of the water allocation process and any scientific justification, i.e. resource stress, for the reduction in water allocations in the area.

The key issues have been identified as:

  • The reduction in allocations is extreme, sudden and un-justified by the current or likely long term resource condition (salinity or water pressure levels);
  • The methodology employed in this conversion and in the determination of WAP individual water allocation may be questionable;
  • Arbitrary shifting of volumes across management zones;
  • The adopted Plan ignores evidence of all previous resource condition reports; and 
  • Significant economic loss will accrue as a result of allocation shortfalls and reductions.

Recommendations and key actions sought by industry can be found in the full report.

Review of Lower Limestone Coast Water Allocation Plan (WAP)

Irrigators from the potato industry with extensive holdings within the Lower Limestone Coast Prescribed Wells Area have reviewed the draft (now adopted) Water Allocation Plan and consider that equity of access to water has not been achieved across all users.

Potatoes South Australia, on behalf of its members operating within this region, engaged Australian Groundwater Technologies (AGT) to review the Water Allocation Plan water allocation criteria.

The key issues have been identified as:

  • Conversion/calculation of the new allocations from Irrigation Equivalents fails to consider industry best practice;
  • Inference that producers require a bridging amount to facilitate the transition to more efficient irrigation practices is offensive;
  • Significant economic loss will accrue as a result of allocation shortfalls and reductions;  
  • Forestry impacts are significantly underestimated;
  • Farm forestry should be required to purchase an allocation;
  • Values used to determine forestry allocation are inconsistent with the Government policy;
  • Forestry should be cut ahead of any irrigation activity; and 
  • There is sufficient water available across the region to  support existing use without having to resort to reductions in allocations.

Recommendations and key actions sought by industry can be found in the full report.

Changes in Soil and Crop Management Practices in the South Australian Murray Mallee

In 2012, the South Australian Government adopted a new Water Allocation Plan (WAP) for the Mallee Prescribed Wells Area which translates to a significant reduction in water allocations to some users of underground water in the South Australian Murray Mallee Region. This has the potential to significantly impact on potato production and farm viability in the region.  Potatoes South Australia engaged Arris Pty Ltd to undertake a survey of producers in the region to ascertain the extent and impact of changes in land management and irrigation practices over the past 10 years. The survey captures ideas that producers in the region have on future opportunities for improved irrigation practices, water conservation and improved water use efficiency.

The survey of potato producers in the region was used to achieve an understanding of how the industry has changed in the last 10 years in the areas of:

  • Land management;
  • Crop management;
  • Water use and management;
  • Improved farming practices; and
  • Water conservation measures.

The survey, together with the review of several relevant recent R&D projects was used to develop suggestions for possible new R&D that could be undertaken for the future benefit of producers in the region.


The Australian Potato Research Program - Phase Two

Phase Two of the Australian Potato Research Program (APRP2) for processing potatoes, is now complete. There were thirteen partners and co-investors including:

  • IPM Technologies;
  • Tasmanian Institute of Agricultural Research (TIAR);
  • South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI);
  • Department of Primary Industries (DPI) Victoria;
  • University of Melbourne;
  • Plant and Food Research (New Zealand);
  • Potato Council United Kingdom;
  • A&L Laboratories Canada,
  • Flinders University; and
  • Victorian Certified Seed Potato Authority (ViCSPA).

The program was made up of the following five related sub-projects:

Control of the Potato Psyllid with an IPM Strategy - PT09004

The aim of this project was to deliver control methods to deal with the potato psyllidcompatible with an overall integrated pest management (IPM) strategy,should this pest arrive in Australia. The potato psyllid has caused massive crop losses and significantly increased production costs in the United States and New Zealand.

The project work has been undertaken in New Zealand by IPM Technologies, Plant & Food Research and Potatoes NZ. Laboratory results have shown that key insect predators occurring in New Zealand and Australia are able to prey on all life-stages of the potato psyllid. Field trials, in which the IPM approach was applied, were conducted in commercial crops in Canterbury during the 2011/12 growing season. The IPM approach involved the use of biological and cultural practices as well asselective border sprays with insecticides, in contrast to the standard practice of weekly whole-crop insecticide treatment.

Results have been encouraging with commercial crops grown and harvested for processing with no sign of zebra chip disease complex. This project is now complete and discussions are underway with North Island farms in New Zealand to identify possible trial sites where psyllidconcentrations are higher.

Importance of Tuber-borne Inoculum on Seed Potato Health - PT09019

This project studied the importance of tuber-borne inoculum on seed potato health. The aim is to equip growers with the tools to predict the incidence of a disease given the amount of disease agent on seed potato, as measured by DNA tests developed under phase one of the program. This knowledge will help growers to decide which line of seed potato to plant in a given field.

Comparison of the currently used visual assessment of seed with DNA assessment has shown good a correlation between both methods, indicating that both provide an adequate measure of disease/pathogen loading for a given seed crop. The importance of seed-borne inoculum has been assessed in pot and field trials, with the importance of initial disease loading providing a good indication of disease potential in the resultant crop for some diseases (black scurf) and a poorer indication for others (powdery scab tuber infection). The role of carry-over inoculum from visually infected seed into healthy soil has been demonstrated with powdery scab. Research is on-going with practical benefits from this project to be demonstrated to industry in the last 18 months of the project.

Diagnostic Tests for Soil-borne Pathogens - PT09023

This international collaborative project worked to improve and validate diagnostic tests for soil-borne pathogens. The objective is to allow the use of soil tests to assess the risk of disease incidence, especially for Rhizoctonia, powdery scab and common scab. The research work is being carried out in Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

The project worked with grower groups to determine the usefulness of the DNA diagnostic soil tests for improved decision making. Research has focused on the interpretation of test results and the link between pathogen soil levels, as measured by the DNA test, and disease development. There is a strong correlation between Spongospora soil DNA level in grower fields and the associated risk of powdery scab disease development. The soil DNA tests for Meloidogynefallax and Colletrotrichum (black dot) are similarly useful for risk assessment. For Streptomyces and Rhizoctonia, soils where the pathogens are detected have a higher risk of disease development on tubers, however, there are a large number of soils in which no pathogen is detected and the crop develops significant disease. A manual, aimed at advisors, will focus on the interpretation of soil test results, review basic biology of each pathogen,summarise relationships between pathogen DNA and yield loss, and link the soil test levels to disease management options.

Click here to read about the release of the new soil DNA test developed by SARDI scientists.

Soil Health and Disease Mitigation - PT09026

This large collaborative project aimed to develop integrated disease control strategies for soil-borne diseases by manipulating nutrients and soil health factors. This work was undertaken in Australia, Canada and New Zealand.

Data from recently completed field trials in Victoria which tested a range of amendment/treatment strategies to reduce the prevalence of common scab, powdery scab and Rhizoctoniaare now being collated and analysed. Research in New Zealand has shown that increasing concentrations of sulphur, in the sulphate form, does not reduce powdery scab disease in a bioassay system. DNA soil tests from several sites in Tasmania and Victoria have provided insights into changes in potato pathogen populations in different crop rotations with potatoes.

Some methods of managing millet as a green manure crop in rotations have reduced common scab disease and improved yields in field trials in Canada. Several potato endophytes (plant inhabiting bacteria), which have shown promise in suppressing the common scab and Rhizoctonia pathogens, are being trialled in glasshouse and field trials in Tasmania, with complementary work being performed in Canada.

Research which demonstrated the control of common scab disease with compounds that mimic a plant growth regulator has been completed and analogue compounds have been identified for future evaluation and possible commercial development. The testing of water samples for bacterial wilt has also continued over the spring and summer months.

Enhancing the Understanding of Verticillium spp. in Australian Potato Production - PT09029

The final project in the APRP2 program aimed to establish basic research into the nature of potato early dying syndrome (PED). This disease causes major losses in potatoes overseas and although the causative agents (Verticillium fungus and nematodes) are present in Australia, their extent and impact are not well understood.

It has been shown that the interaction between Verticillium dahliae (the predominant Verticillium species involved in infection in Australia) and root-lesion nematode Pratylenchuscrenatus causes PED syndrome in Australian potato production systems. Several seed potato varieties which are resistant to the pathogen V. dahliae,with reduced infection and disease symptoms have also been identified. Other results have shown that the incidence of seed tuber infection is high, with symptoms not correlating with presence of the pathogen. Future trials will further explore tuber infection and resulting disease and assess suitable treatment alternatives.

APRP2 Summary

APRP2: Videos of researcher presentations are now available

During the September APRP2 Science Symposium a half day industry “outputs” session was filmed and is now available online via the link provided below.

Included in the videos is an address by Dr George Lazarovits, a passionate researcher from A&L Laboratories, Canada, discussing the topic, "Microbiology is coming to the forefront of agricultural production".  The first six presentations feature a power point presentation as well as footage of the presenter.  The final eight presentations used a Q&A approach to discuss the largest of the APRP2 projects – the soil health and disease mitigation program.

Tools are available to the right hand slide of the screen to enable you to view the slides and presentation in different formats.  Each presentation is available for download with an icon located just below the title of the presentation on the home page.

Here is the link:

A decision to implement an APRP3 has not yet been determined.