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Latest insights into potato industry at biennial conference

26 November 2012

This year's Seed Industry Event was packed to capacity, with 180 breeders, growers, exporters, agronomists, scientists, researchers and members of the supply chain community in attendance.

The AHDB Potatoes sponsored event, held at the Crieff Hydro in Perthshire, had the future of plant health as its main theme. It also covered on-going protection of GB’s high health seed status, variety development and delivering to specific markets.

Allan Stevenson, Chairman of AHDB Potatoes, announced he was due to step down in March and the search for a new Chair of the Levy Board, a division of the Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB), had begun.

A series of excellent sessions with noteable speakers included: Dr Leah Tsror, Plant Pathologist from the Israeli Ministry of Agriculture, who spoke of the effects of Dickeya in Israel and Dr Gerry Saddler, Head of Diagnostics and Molecular Biology at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), who considered a national perspective on the destructive infection. He explained how its spread has been averted in Scotland through legislation, AHDB Potatoes’s Safe Haven Sheme and a zero tolerance approach in the Seed Clasification Scheme.

Professor Iain Gordon, Chief Executive of The James Hutton Institute, spoke about variety breeding advances while Kate Cox and Dr Mike Storey, from AHDB Potatoes, presented key levy-funded work. This linked AHDB Potatoes’s R&D programme with driving consumers’ variety awareness, including a new campaign around different attributes of fluffy, salad or smooth potatoes.

Technical Director of Greenvale Paul Coleman gave a breeder and supplier’s perspective on what makes particular varieties successful for growers, looking at brands, yields and consumer trials.

Focused panel debates and Q&A sessions at workshops through the day offered delegates an invaluable chance to hear expert insights on key challenges facing the industry, from consumer research to marketing, genetic modification and seed storage.

Robert Burns, Head of Seed and Export at AHDB Potatoes, said: "The importance of keeping seed free of disease was a constant theme throughout the event. In the wake of the disaster that has hit the UK in terms of the ash tree fungus we will be working hard to ensure the Safe Haven scheme continues to keep the British potato industry secure."

Duncan MacRae, Principal Agricultural Officer from the Scottish Government, said: “It was an excellent, well organised event and I look forward to the next one.”

Farmer Alan Gordon, of W O Gordon Bindal, said: “I thought the workshops were good and it was an excellent conference.”

Helen Crews, Head of Better Regulation at The Food and Environment Research Agency, said: “It was the first time I attended and was impressed by the engagement of delegates. There was a good agenda for a one-day meeting and it covered a lot of ground.”

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