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Don’t let bruising spoil your season

2 August 2011

According to Simon Alexander of SA Consulting, planning plays an important role in minimising bruising risks and ensuring that contract requirements are met.

Speaking at the recent East Midlands Potato Day, he advised that growers should consider variety, site and end market, in order to determine the risk before planting.

“Although variety choice is often dictated by contract, growers should take local information into consideration in addition to checking the potential risk from bruising on the British Potato Variety Database. Varieties are scored on a scale of 1-9; the higher the score the more resistant it is to bruising,” he explained.

He also stressed that site conditions are relevant as stone content, clod and irrigation capacity all have a bearing on the crop growing conditions and if the latter part of the season is very dry, the ability to irrigate before harvest may be important.

Simon also pointed out that the aim is to ensure there is adequate moisture around the tuber and therefore management of the crop prior to burn off can make a difference , as can the timing of irrigation.

“Growers on light land will have little difficulty,” he added. “However, on heavier land, it is a more tricky decision. If you already have moist soils and it then rains heavily, growers can be caught out. In addition, crop nutrition is really important as healthy crops will be less susceptible to bruising.”

He emphasised that there may still be a need for irrigation after burn off, although this depends on the soil structure. “There won’t be any benefit if you have no stones or clod to contend with, unless dust becomes an issue. Where stones and clod do exist, a bit of soil going up the web will help to cushion the tubers,” he explained.

Simon also suggested that regional conditions and variety susceptibility scores should be used to determine the order of harvest.

“Once harvest starts, don’t go full throttle into the crop,” he advised. “Start with varieties you know and make use of a hot box to assess the extent of any problem.”

According to Simon, the hot box should be set up at 35◦C and 98% RH and only a couple of acres need to be lifted for the samples. This ensures crops going into store will be monitored and growers can liaise with customers to ensure that their requirements are met.

He went on to stress the importance of staff training and harvester set-up. “Don’t just blame the harvester driver for a bruised crop, as it is rarely his fault as long as the harvester is correctly set-up,” he continued. “The operator must be familiar with the machine and all staff should have received training in bruise management.”

Some flexibility within the supply chain may be required in a dry year, he concluded, as seasonal issues need to be resolved for everyone to achieve their aim.

For more information on Minimising Bruising click here.

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