AHDB appoints new potato knowledge exchange manager

Bill Watts has joined AHDB as the arable knowledge exchange manager (potatoes) for the West Midlands, South West and Wales.

Watts has been a regular presenter at Strategic Potato (SPot) Farm West events since 2016, making him a familiar face to a number of growers and other industry members in the West Midlands.

Having recently completed his PhD, he has extensive research experience in crop management and is a specialist in potato cyst nematode (PCN) control, which is attributable to in excess of £25 million in losses to the industry each year.

Knowledge exchange managers are the first point of contact for farmers, growers and those in the supply chain who are looking to access the array of services and tools funded by their levy.

After such a challenging season, and the uncertainty surrounding Brexit, knowledge exchange has become ever more important in ensuring the industry is informed and reactive to change.

Watts said: “I’m looking forward to developing farm demonstrations and using events such as the strategic potato farms to generate discussion and promote new ideas.

“My best research findings were those that could be readily adopted on-farm for the immediate benefit of farm businesses, which is what the SPot program champions.”

This summer, AHDB announced that the Potatoes and Cereals and Oilseeds knowledge exchange teams have combined, bringing together a wide range of resources and expertise into one group.

Graham Bannister, senior knowledge exchange manager, said that the new Arable Knowledge Exchange team provides a greater depth of knowledge and resource.

He said: “The new appointment and our collaboration with colleagues across the arable sector has broadened our knowledge base and enhanced our discussions of best practice with growers. Bill is well versed in this area through the work he’s already done with farms in the region.

Many growers will know Bill from his previous work on the biofumigation of PCN and his involvement in PCN tolerance and resistance work.

“Along with his technical knowledge, he brings a real enthusiasm for the potato sector and for engaging with the whole industry.”

AHDB has recently released a guide to sampling and testing for PCN, and is currently updating the PCN Calculator, which can be accessed on the AHDB website.