You are here

Soil and water best practice

25 August 2011

The AHDB Potatoes soil and water forum takes place on February 10, 2010. Sandwiched between the blight and energy forums, the day will arm growers with the knowledge to improve crop quality and yield, and prepare them for the regulatory changes for the 2010 crop, says AHDB Potatoes Chris Steele.

As part of AHDB Potatoes three days of winter forums in Huntingdon in February, some of the nation’s experts in soil and water will be providing the latest technical updates and guidance on new legislative challenges.

“Growers attending will join discussions about future parameters for R&D and knowledge transfer,” says AHDB Potatoes soil and water specialist Chris Steele.

John Elphinstone from FERA and Mark Stalham from Cambridge University Farm (CUF) will update growers on the interaction of soil and water and the link to water efficiency, disease control, quality and yield.

“AHDB Potatoes is launching a new guide at the forum on Common scab as part of the ‘Managing the Risk of...’ series,” explains Chris. “Common scab causes losses in ware production estimated at £3m each year, and twenty five separate Streptomyces species are identified as casual agents. New findings show that some of these species can cause scab on tubers in acidic soils, a development that will be discussed at the forum.”

With increased restrictions on water use, delegates will learn about research at CUF that has enabled the irrigation period to be reduced from six to four weeks following tuber initiation, to control Common scab. Experimental research at Fera will also be introduced: it will utilise DNA technology to assist in crop planning decisions to predict fields that are likely to give a high or low incidence of scab.

“The soil and water forum is also the place to gain information to prepare and plan for the many changes taking place as regulations toughen,” explains Chris.

Water Protection Zones (WPZs) are now in force and changes to abstraction licences also start next month. There are changes to the Soil Protection Review and the Soils Directive is back on the agenda in Brussels.

Melvyn Kay of the UK Irrigation Association will discuss how Water Abstractor Groups (WAGs) can help cut irrigation costs and manage changing legislation and licensing. 

The new rules on water abstraction come into effect in the 2010 growing crop and in addition to the forum AHDB Potatoes is hoping to run a series of workshops at the end of January explaining how the changes will affect growers.

“The regulations will bring some currently exempt activities, such as trickle irrigation of crops, under the licensing arrangements,” adds Chris. “Growers need to make a simple assessment of how much water the crop will need to justify any abstractions planned for the season.

 “Keeping accurate records is vital, not only for cross-compliance, but also to inform management decisions and improve water efficiency and crop quality.”

Looking to the future Cranfield University’s Jerry Knox will round up the day by discussing the risks to potato businesses of climate change and how growers will have to adapt to changes in future water availability. To book a place at the forums email:

More information and advice on soils and water issues can be found at

More information on Water Protection Zones is available on the Defra website and the EA website.

How useful did you find this information?
Only logged in users can vote. Click on a star rating to show your choice, please note you can only vote once.
No votes yet