Drought 2018 still posing questions for potato growers

A special session at the final Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) Strategic Farm field walk of the season focused on storage and saw discussion on the challenges caused by this summer’s drought.

The session took place on Tuesday, September 4, and was added to the planned trials programme at the Elveden Estate in west Suffolk to give growers and store managers a chance to share experiences and ideas.

Simon Alexander of S.A. Consulting chaired discussions.

‘A balancing act’

He said: “By harvest-time, it’s a balancing act between catching up on yield and achieving the quality required to store the potatoes effectively.

“What you need to do to achieve one doesn’t necessarily help the other,” he explained.

Adrian Cunnington, who edited the AHDB Potato Store Managers’ Guide, said that best practice becomes particularly important in difficult times.

“When a crop comes into the store it needs a good set skin to protect it from weight loss and disease. Make sure it can be dried, cured and cooled effectively,” he said.

Unimpeded air circulation is very important. If tuber size is below average, as may be the case this year, it restricts airflow, so make sure not to overfill boxes as that will create further problems.

After the storage discussion, the group moved on to discuss this year’s trials on Potato Cyst Nematode management and nitrogen use.

The event marked the end of the third and final growing season of Elveden’s participation in the Strategic Farm programme.

Farms director Andrew Francis said: “For the region as a whole, I think we’ve been able to move forward and progress together. This is the first time that we’ve had this level of research on light soils, so hopefully, we’ve started something that will develop and carry on long after our tenancy.

A results day on January 10 at Newmarket racecourse will see data from the trials presented. At the event, researchers and agronomists will chair discussions on implications for best practice in the region.

To register for the event, and join the debate, visit the website.

The AHDB Potatoes storage advice line is available on: 0800-0282-111 and the store managers’ guide can be downloaded here.