Potato growers urged to put as much energy into storage as growth

Potato growers are being advised to put as much effort into storage planning as they do into the rest of the growing season.

Ewan Stark, director of Taygrow, delivered the message at a recent Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) potato storage event held in Perth.

He said: “We all put a huge amount of effort into planting, growing and harvesting the crop, but does that attention to detail follow through from growing the crop to storing it? For the best results, we need to put as much energy into crop storage as crop growth.

Potatoes will often be in storage for months, equating to a huge portion of their life cycle, and if you don’t get it right in the stores you can potentially lose a significant amount of the crop.

This message was echoed by storage experts from AHDB’s Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research facility who have been working with growers across Britain to improve stores as part of their Storage 2020 campaign.

Adrian Cunnington, who heads up the facility, said: “We have been concerned for some time about the age of stores across the country which will not be performing as efficiently. We know that poorer stores can have running costs three times that of the better models.”

As part of the Storage 2020 campaign, AHDB launched its StoreCheck service which analyses a grower’s store or stores and offers practical advice on how to improve performance and efficiency.

Stores manager at Greenvale AP, John Hutchison, was quick to recognise the value of such a service.

“I manage 24 stores for Greenvale,” he said. “And we saw the StoreCheck service as a way to ensure they were as efficient as possible.

After the assessment, we invested £20,000 in a store upgrade, which dramatically improved our energy costs and plant running time.

“We reduced our electricity usage from 38,000kWh to 22,000kWh in a three-month period, and those savings meant we made back that initial investment in just five years.”

Collecting data

John is also passionate about the need to focus more on the storage part of the potato crop life cycle, and for him, that focus should be on data.

“Gather as much data as you can, on crop temperature, CO2 levels, compressor, fan, energy usage, etc, but use it,” he said.

I think previously we gathered a lot of data but didn’t act on it, now we use it to inform how we manage the stores, and it works.

Adrian Cunnington and his team have a free storage advice line available for growers experiencing problems with this year’s crop, on: 0800-0282-111.