Spotting critical spud issues the first priority for new SPot hosts

Suffolk-based growers James Foskett Farms Ltd. will be taking up the reins as AHDB’s Strategic Potato (SPot) Farm East host this autumn.

The appointment comes following the end of the three-year programme at Elveden, which will continue to host a number of events later this year as part of the transition period.

Mike Shapland, farm manager at James Foskett, said: “We offer a good portfolio of soils and crops and are constantly striving to make improvements, so we really feel like we’ve something to offer the industry.

The loss of actives such as diquat obviously poses a big challenge for growers. We need to develop other strategies for haulm destruction.

“We heard really good things from other growers about the Strategic Potato Farm programme at Elveden. We are pleased to be able to work with Andrew and his team there, and with AHDB, during this transitional season, before hitting the ground running as hosts in our own right.”

Andrew Francis, of Elveden, said: “Being a SPot host was as rewarding as it was challenging. As our contract came to an end, we held meetings about ways we could stay involved with change and innovation in the industry.

“We are proud to be part of a forward-thinking community of growers and supply chain.”

2019 programme

The open days at Elveden and James Foskett form a series of events for growers in the East of England this year. They will be centred on topical issues, such as dealing with chemical loss and smart use of water.

Tim Isaac, head of Arable Knowledge Exchange at AHDB, said: “This year is a critical one for potato growers. It is their last with Diquat, probably their last with CIPC, and many in the East are starting on the back foot when it comes to water availability.

“The SPot programme is designed to help growers make change, and as at our established farms in Scotland, the North, West and South, we will be tackling these key issues via a range of demonstrations, many of which were started in previous seasons.

“The first year of a new project is mostly about baselining and establishing a link with research.

By running events this season across both farms, our new hosts will be able to pick some of this work this season – while we tackle hot-topics at dedicated events.

James Foskett Farms will begin their tenure as SPot hosts on September 1, 2019, though the farm will also host an event on July 18 this year.

Events in the East planned for 2019 include:

  • July 18: Field walk and storage update, James Foskett Farms;
  • August/September: Desiccation and haulm destruction, Elveden Farms;
  • Autumn 2019: GREATsoils event, Elveden Farms.

It is a family-owned business on predominantly sandy loam soils over 900ha. Along with potatoes, the rotation includes onions, cereals and sugar beet among its arable crops.

The farm also has an organic enterprise comprising carrots, butternut squash, green peas, onions and carrots.