Home' Grower : August 2011 Contents The South Australian Grower – August 2011
◗ Potatoes & onions
POTATOES are the world’s fourth most
important food crop, rich in potassium and
Native to South America, spuds reached
Europe by 16th century.
Over thousands of years, more than
5500 varieties have been cultivated.
Worldwide, the potato has become a hit
due to its versatility and relative ease of
production – used in pies, soups and
stews, mashed potato, fries and crisps.
Potatoes were heavily promoted in
Ireland in the mid 1800s to support
subsistence farming, offering the highest
valuable yield/unit of land.
Between 1845 to 1849, the great potato
famine struck in Ireland due to potato
More than a million people are estimated
to have died as result of undernourishment
as a result. Today, disease management
continues to be a major industry priority.
Within Australia, all states grow
significant quantities of potatoes. The
southern states are the highest producers.
In 2008-09, South Australia was the
largest producer at 383,221 tonnes (worth
more than a quarter of a billion in
production value), followed by Tasmania
278, 361 tonnes, Victoria 255 483 tonnes,
Queensland 97,590 tonnes, WA 88,504
tonnes and NSW 75,372 tonnes.
In 2008-09, potatoes were sown on
about 325,000 hectares to produce around
1.18 million tonnes, yielding on average
about 36 t/ha.
Total production value for human
consumption in 2007-08, was estimated to
be more than $650 million (fresh potatoes
and potatoes for processing). Sources:
Australian Bureau of Statistics data for
It was estimated by the mid 1990s that
Australians ate their way through about
63-68 kg of mash chips, crisps or bake
Source: Australian Bureau of Statistics Year
SE processors ‘battling’ several fronts
ANDREW Widdison (pictured) says there are always
new issues for potato processors to deal with.
As chairman of the South East Potato Growers'
Association, he looks after the interests of about 20
potato growers supplying the processing sector.
And he says that is not easy.
The SE potato-growing region broadly stretches from
Naracoorte across to Robe then south to the Victorian
border and produces a crop of 140,000 tonnes
annually from about 3000 hectares for a farmgate price
of about $42 million.
About 90 per cent of this output goes to the McCain
group for french fries, crisps and other processed
“We are always pursuing money issues and have a
group that works with government and the processors
with whom we work to remove impediments to the
industry and get cash growth at minimum cost,”
“We want to continue producing a product the public
wants at a reasonable price.
“Predominantly, we deal with the State government
about issues, such as water, forestry, native
revegetation, power and infrastructure – but there are
always costs for the farmer.
“We also try to prevent imports, especially from
countries with diseases, and all this puts our industry
almost on a knife edge.”
Range of diseases in research focus
SARDI pathologist Robin
Harding says a big advantage
with DNA testing is that one
sample can be used to test
for a range of diseases, so it
significantly reduces the
required time to test for
diseases, and information is
available within weeks.
Potatoes diseases are a
A second phase of research
has begun linking researchers
from the United Kingdom,
New Zealand and South
Africa to explore how to use
diagnostic tests to assess
disease risk and practical
application in the field.
International partners in
Phase 2 include Horticulture
New Zealand and New Zealand
Plant and Food Research and
the Potato Council UK program
– involving researchers from
the Scottish Crops Research
Institute, Scottish Agricultural
College and the Food and
Environment Research Agency
UK. So far the diagnostic
approach has been tested on
grower field sites in SA, Vic
Spuds cultivate a rich history
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P: 03 6425 5533 F: 03 6425 5847
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