Potato – processing

See how the levy paid by potato processors is hard at work! Scroll down to learn about Hort Innovation’s current investment of the levy, and results from these investments, in the R&D snapshot – or click on a project name below to go straight to a specific update. Also look for the ‘ACT NOW’ tag to easily identify project resources ready to use.

All projects are funded by Hort Innovation using the R&D levy paid by potato processors and contributions from the Australian Government, with additional funding sources used for some work.


Don’t forget to grab the Potato – Processing Fund Annual Report

Released at the start of November, Hort Innovation’s Potato – Processing Fund Annual Report sums up all levy investments and activities from 2016/17. You can download a copy here, or head to Hort Innovation’s Annual Report Portal to place an order for a free hard copy of the report.

What research do you want to see?

As always, Hort Innovation encourages all industry participants to share their thoughts and ideas for the research they want to see – whether that’s within the industry-specific Potato – Processing Fund (where research is funded by the processing potato levy and Australian Government contributions), or within Hort Innovation’s strategic partnership initiative, Hort Frontiers (where research is funded through partnerships with co-investors).

Watch this video to see how ideas are collected and grown into projects, then submit your suggestions for new projects here.

Get closer to your investments with free membership

Hort Innovation membership brings you closer to the investment activities and results in your levy fund, and to the organisation as a whole. As well as providing the opportunity for voting rights at the company’s Annual General Meeting, membership helps you connect with your industry’s Relationship Manager, sends Hortlink straight to your inbox for first-look access, provides exclusive Grower Intel alerts with industry-specific news and opportunities, and more.

Paying a levy doesn’t automatically make you a member, so read more here and sign up now!

Find resources on the Hort Innovation Potato – Processing Fund page…

Along with Hortlink, Hort Innovation’s webpage for potato processors is a great source of info. On it you’ll find:

  • Key documents including the Potato – Processing Strategic Investment Plan (SIP) for 2017-2021, released earlier in 2017, and the industry annual report
  • The latest meeting notes from the processing potato Strategic Investment Advisory Panel (SIAP), which most recently met in July 2017, and is due to meet again during January 2018
  • Current financial documents regarding your levy, including operating statements and expenditure summaries for R&D projects
  • Grower resources, events and articles of interest to the industry.
Any questions?

Hort Innovation Relationship Manager Christian Patterson is always available to answer questions or provide info on the Potato – Processing Fund program. He can be reached on 0433 896 753 or at christian.patterson@horticulture.com.au.



Diagnostic capability to detect Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum (CLso)

Status: New project

Key research provider: The Victorian Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources (DEDJTR)

What’s it all about? This new project was contracted by Hort Innovation in November to help bolster efforts to monitor and contain tomato potato psyllid and the damage it causes. This particular project will improve diagnostic capabilities related to Candidatus Liberibacter solanacearum (CLso) – the bacterium that can be carried by the psyllid and that is associated with ‘zebra chip’ disease in potatoes. The psyllid infects tubers with disease, and the disease can be transferred by potato tubers.

What’s the latest update? With the project still in its preliminary stages, it is excepted to ultimately develop a robust field sampling strategy for CLso, considering both insect and tuber sources of the bacterium, validate in-field tests on potato plants, build capacity in diagnostics around Australia and more.

National tomato potato psyllid (TPP) program coordinator

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: AUSVEG

What’s it all about? This project is responsible for coordinating the development and implementation of a national tomato potato psyllid (TPP) management strategy – essentially helping ensure research and development, engagement and other response efforts related to the pest across the various industries and areas it affects are coordinated, prioritised and strategic. Its work is funded by the processing potato, fresh potato and vegetable industries.

What’s the latest update? In mid-October, Alan Nankivell began in the role of national TPP program coordinator. He will now act as a point of contact between the various TPP-affected industries, government and service providers, to help implement TPP management in Western Australia and prepare eastern-state industries.

The coordinator’s work kicked off with a visit to Western Australia in late October/early November to meet with relevant program staff, state industry representatives and affected growers. He and other team members also currently sit on a range of working groups relevant to TPP.

As reported in the last edition of Hortlink, a key component of the project will be strong communication with industry – look for updates on the project’s efforts and TPP in general in industry channels.


Learn more about the new TPP program coordinator and the project’s work here, on p8 of the October/November 2017 edition of Potatoes Australia magazine. This flyer also gives a quick overview of the program.

Surveillance of tomato potato psyllid in the Eastern States and South Australia

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: University of Tasmania

What’s it all about? This project began in April 2017, with levy investment from the potato and vegetable industries. Its surveillance activities are designed to bolster psyllid surveillance for the early detection of tomato potato psyllid (TPP) should it cross from Western Australia into South Australia and the eastern states, including Tasmania. Surveillance involves potato crops as well as other solonaceous vegetables (including capsicum, eggplant and chilli), especially those grown in greenhouses.

What’s the latest update? The project continues to offer growers access to sticky traps for participation in the national TPP surveillance program (see ACT NOW for more), with close to 2000 traps so far distributed to growers in regions of Tasmania, Queensland, Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia.

The project has also been facilitating training workshops on TPP, including how to identify the pest and the plant damage it causes, as well as quarantine and biosecurity. Look for any upcoming events in industry channels.


  • Growers can get involved in the sticky-trap surveillance program for TPP, which will be running continuously through this project until mid-April 2018, when a new national surveillance plan is expected to kick in. For more information, and to access traps, contact trapping program coordinator Raylea Rowbottom on 0428 745 752 or at raylea.rowbottom@utas.edu.au. Trapping protocols are also available here.
Extension activities for the Australian potato industry – pest and disease app

Status: New project

Key research provider: Victorian Certified Seed Potato Authority

What’s it all about? Contracted by Hort Innovation in September, this short project is tasked with developing a potato disease, disorder and pest app for the Australian potato industry. The application – set to be available for smartphones, tablets and computers – will provide a visual reference of pests and diseases affecting potato quality, to help in-field detection and diagnosis.

What’s the latest update? With work underway to deliver this handy new tool, look for updates in future editions of Hort and in industry channels.

Extension activities for the Australian potato industry – literature review and survey

Status: New project

Key research provider: AgAims

What’s it all about? This project will identify and document potential opportunities for improving Australian potato seed quality and handling practices – taking this information to industry to support the adoption of improved, sustainable best practice for the delivery of high-quality seed.

What’s the latest update? Work being carried out by this project includes a review of international research and best practice on seed handling, including post-harvest handling, storage and seed piece treatments, as well as the effect on final crop outcomes of physiological age of seed, seed piece size, and whole versus cut seed. The project team is also reviewing current Australian seed quality and handling practices.

Look for updates in future editions of Hortlink.

An IPM extension program for the potato and onion industries

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: IPM Technologies

What’s it all about? This project for and funded by the fresh potato, processing potato and onion industries has a focus on integrated pest management (IPM). Its core activities are to support growers in adopting IPM on farm – improving pest management with minimal pesticide use and a reduction in associated costs – and will include workshops, the use of demonstration sites with commercial crops, and the production of materials such as articles, guides and case studies distributed in industry channels.

The project is also be responsible for training advisors from Australia’s major potato and onion growing regions in IPM.

What’s the latest update? With the project’s first year drawing to a close, the concept of IPM in potato and onion crops has been brought to both growers and advisors in South Australia, Victoria, Tasmania and New South Wales. In areas across these states, initial workshops have been run to outline IPM principles, with feedback collected at these events feeding into the development of on-farm demonstrations.

Subsequently, on-farm demonstration trials have commenced in potato and onion crops at 25 sites in South Australia, amounting to 940 hectares of potatoes and 395 hectares of onions being produced using an IPM approach with support from this project so far. Yet more demonstration sites for the 2017/18 season are due to be established as crops emerge in the south east of South Australia and in Victoria.

Visits by IPM Technologies entomologists to demonstration trials have shown participating growers and advisors the range of beneficial insects and mites of importance and highlighted the value of cultural control options. Regular contact with project participants (both face-to-face during field visits, and via phone and email) is allowing the project team to demonstrate how decisions can be made on insecticide selection and use (or the decision to not use an insecticide).

The first growers involved in the project have now grown potato and onion crops using IPM for the first time, and for some this has meant growing their crops without any insecticides at all. The project team reports that these growers have seen the theory put into practice on their own farms, and are adopting IPM on all their potato or onion crops going forward.

The IPM Technologies team also report that participating advisors have seen the value in using IPM and there has been a significant change in the type of advice being given by these advisors, who have ceased recommending routine, broad-spectrum insecticides and are now promoting IPM. They suggest that the project is having a noticeable influence in facilitating widespread adoption of IPM in the regions where extension activities have been targeted to date, and work is continuing towards making IPM a standard method of dealing with pests of potatoes and onions.


  • Interested in trialling IPM? Through this project, telephone and email support is offered to growers wanting to use the approach, and can include advice on pest management decisions week-by-week. Learn more here, email the project team at info@ipmtechnologies.com.au, or call Dr Paul Horne on 0419 891 575. Also look for upcoming workshop details in industry channels.
Extension of the PreDicta Pt potato diagnostic service

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: South Australian Research and Development Institute (SARDI)

What’s it all about? Beginning in mid-2017, this project is responsible for expanding the PreDicta PT testing system to help minimise the impact of soilborne and seedborne diseases on Australian potato businesses.

Running since 2013, PreDicta Pt is the commercial DNA-based testing service that allows specific pathogens to be identified prior to the planting of potatoes. Available through accredited providers in the south-eastern states, the test results help identify and manage risks related to powdery scab, black dot and root knot nematode.

This project is expanding the service into other major production areas of Australia, adding new soil tests, and giving potato growers access to testing on seed tubers.

What’s the latest update? In its first six months, the project’s most significant achievement has been the development of a new pathogen DNA test for pink rot. Pink rot is a serious fungal disease that infects all below-ground parts of the potato plant, causing a leathery look to infected tubers, which turn a characteristically pink colour, and eventually black, when cut.

The new test developed by the project detects three species of phytophthora that are known to cause pink rot. The process of evaluating the test’s use as a pre-plant soil assessment for the risk of pink rot developing has now begun.

As well as developing new tests, the project aims to introduce a commercial service for quantifying pathogen levels in the peel of seed tubers, and to develop risk thresholds for existing pathogen tests that are currently reported without an indication of the disease risk they pose. Field validation trials will be conducted to confirm and or refine knowledge to interpret the tests.

It is also delivering training workshops for agronomists.


Watch this video for a quick overview of the existing PreDicta PT service, produced as part of the communications program described further down.

Navigating the wealth of soil health information and identification of opportunities

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: The Tasmanian Institute of Agriculture

What’s it all about? Beginning in mid-2017 for and funded by both the processing and fresh potato industries, this project is reviewing the current state of knowledge around factors that influence soil health in potato growing. It will produce grower-friendly resources to allow soil health information and R&D to be better utilised on-farm, and in its course will also help identify priorities for future R&D and extension around soil health and management practices.

What’s the latest update? As per the last edition of Hortlink, the project team continues to bring together information on what constitutes a healthy and productive soil, and what the current best practices are for improving soil health.

A draft review of current soil health literature, research and technologies has been completed, and at the time of writing was to be discussed as part of a scientific workshop bringing together local and international researchers. The report will be made available to industry when finalised.


Those interested to learn more, including how they can provide input into the project, can contact the project’s Dr Robert Tegg at robert.tegg@utas.edu.au. If you missed it, you can also read a general project overview on p8 of the August/September Potatoes Australia magazine here.

Impact of groundwater quality on the management of centre-pivot-grown potato crops

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: Serve-Ag (E.E. Muir & Sons)

What’s it all about? This project for and funded by both the processing and fresh potato industries is looking at groundwater quality in areas of potato production in South Australia (where groundwater quality is most variable) and investigating how regional and seasonal water-quality variability impacts on potato production and quality. It will ultimately deliver effective management strategies and tools for sustainable and profitable potato production under varying soil and water conditions.

What’s the latest update? As reported in the last edition of Hortlink, the project continues to collect data for nine major potato varieties across three South Australian growing regions: the South East, the Mallee and the Northern Adelaide Plains. The researchers are looking at site groundwater, soil characteristics and plant health conditions to see how specific conditions impact on the growth and health of plants, and associated quality and yields. Satellite imagery is also being assessed as a potential management tool, where regularly captured ‘normalised difference vegetation index’ or NDVI data (which provides a remote measure of vegetation density and condition) may provide early spatial variation information to assist with crop management activities.

At the time of writing, data collection had been completed within the Mallee, while the Northern Adelaide Plains sites were nearing harvest, and the South East sites were beginning production for the season.

Information collected through the project will ultimately be used to develop nutrition programs to maximise plant nutrient uptake and water use under a range of conditions.

Potato industry minor use program

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: Hort Innovation

What’s it all about? Through this project, levy funds and Australian Government contributions are used to renew and apply for new minor use permits for the potato industry. These submissions are prepared and submitted to the Australian Pesticides and Veterinary Medicines Authority (APVMA).

What’s the latest update? All current minor use permits for the industry are searchable at portal.apvma.gov.au/permits. Permit updates are also circulated in Hort Innovation’s Growing Innovation e-newsletter, which levy-paying members receive monthly. Not a member? Sign up to our membership program for free here.

Exploring Spongospora suppressive soils in potato production

Status: Ongoing project

Key research provider: The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research

What’s it all about? This project is seeking to confirm the presence of a soil (or multiple soils) with characteristics that suppress Spongospora diseases of potato, including tuber powdery scan and root galling. If suppression is demonstrated, the project team will identify the mechanisms for suppression and determine if the suppressive properties are transferrable to non-suppressive soils, for the benefit of the Australian potato industry.

What’s the latest update? In its initial months, the project has collected 12 soils from cropping fields in northern New Zealand, where possible differences in soil conduciveness or suppressiveness to diseases caused by Spongospora have been noted. The collected soils represent different soil types and cropping histories, and some having shown potential disease suppression.

The soils have been entered into greenhouse trials which, over their course, will look at the extent of possible disease suppression. Spongospora inoculation treatments have been applied to pots of the soils, and seed tubers planted. When harvested, assessments will be made of the severity of the development of Spongospora diseases.

Soil samples have also undergone testing to characterise their physical, biological and chemical properties.

Soils that show signs of soilborne disease suppression will progress into the second phase of the project in due course, where the project team will seek to identify mechanisms of this action. If biological, they may be transferrable or, if chemical or physical, they may be manipulable in other soils.

Other R&D projects of note…
  • Review of the national biosecurity plan for the potato industry and development of a biosecurity manual for potato producers (PT16004), an ongoing project responsible for updating the potato industry’s biosecurity plan – identifying high-priority endemic and exotic pests and diseases along with the risk mitigation activities required to reduce their biosecurity threat. It is also developing a manual for growers to help grow awareness of key pests and diseases, and the steps that can be taken to minimise their risk. The manual will also highlight legislative changes to ensure growers are up to date regarding their official biosecurity obligations.
Print page