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Mike Storey to retire after 36 years

5 December 2018

 Mike Storey: An appreciation

 By Adrian Cunnington

 

Dr R.M.J. (Mike) Storey has been a key player in the potato industry for a long time – some 36 years with AHDB and its predecessor organisations and six years in potato-focused research before that. The time has come for him to retire at Christmas and he will be missed, not only as an effusive enthusiast and supporter of the potato but also because there is just so much knowledge of the crop that’s going to leave with him.

I first met Mike in 1982. He had recently joined the Potato Marketing Board’s research team, after working on potato cyst nematode at universities in the UK and the Netherlands, an interest he retains to this day. At the PMB, he was based at the head office in Knightsbridge, London and had journeyed up to Sutton Bridge – where I was working as a temp over harvest –  to check on the large scale storage of variety trials which was part of the levy-funded research programme back then.

By the time I joined the PMB’s permanent staff at Sutton Bridge in ’84, the decision had been made to move much of the operational side of the Board’s work out of London to Cowley on the edge of Oxford. Mike was amongst many staff who were relocated to an unglamorous edifice on Between Towns Road (made famous by Bill Bryson in his book Notes from A Small Island).

As Research Officer, Mike’s work necessitated visits to all parts of the UK (and overseas) to monitor developments in potato research across an ever-expanding range of topics and new techniques. He took it all in his stride and established a reputation for being able to bring together parties from across government, academia and industry to collaborate on work and deliver more high quality research for each pound of levy payer money spent.

Dedication to the job has never been an issue for Mike. He has always been there – often behind the scenes, sometimes up front – oiling the wheels or putting the industry’s case whenever there is a new research project or some crisis that needs to be dealt with, a Minister to meet or a technical story brewing that needs to be managed with the press.

Following the departure of Tim Dent in 1988, Mike was asked by Bob Meredith to take the reins at Sutton Bridge and this role he carried out – alongside his new job as Research Manager – for a year or so, commuting from his Oxfordshire home to spend 2 or 3 days with us each week.

The PMB was replaced by the British Potato Council in 1997 and Mike was promoted to the post of R&D Director overseeing significant developments in potato research, including key areas such as advanced agronomy, DNA-based diagnostics and minituber-based production systems. Perhaps just as importantly though, he continued that behind-the-scenes work to bring together new funding and fields of expertise to maximise the levy payers’ ‘bang for their buck’ on potato research and development. Levering money from Government has been a particular skill; by using a small amount of levy it was often possible for Mike to convince the funding bodies to add substantial sums into collaborative research programmes for the benefit of all.

Around this time Mike also took an increasing interest in the European Association for Potato Research, eventually joining its Council and, on the retirement of Douglas McRae (ex-SCAE/SAC), was appointed to the role of Vice-President of the Association, a post he held right up to last year. He remains an editor of the Association’s journal, Potato Research and has established international links for British potato researchers across the globe.

The BPC evolved into the Potato Council on the establishment of the AHDB in 2008 and, despite another relocation, this time to Stoneleigh in Warwickshire - Mike continued to head up its Research function, right through to 2015. Notable work he oversaw in this phase of his career included mapping of the potato genome concluded in 2012. In parallel over this period, he also became chair of the Potato Industry CIPC Stewardship Group as the introduction of cross-industry initiatives to protect this important sprout suppressant became necessary. The award-winning Group has been instrumental in maintaining access to the chemical for over ten years and remains under his chairmanship today.

Most recently, on reorganisation of the AHDB’s technical function into cross-sectoral teams, Mike took on the challenge of heading up the Resource Management group, working across all sectors from livestock to horticulture, on soils, water and nutrients. The re-launch of the RB209 potato nutrition guide and the AHDB Great Soils campaign have been leading outputs of his team. But, at the same time, he has stayed involved in the co-ordination of work for the potato sector through the R&D Committee that oversees programmes of work across many universities and well-established potato research centres such as James Hutton Institute, NIAB CUF, SASA, SRUC and Sutton Bridge.  That Committee has funded much valuable research for the industry under Mike’s steerage, working with notable chairs across his term of office that have included Jim Godfrey, Jim Cruickshank, Tony Bambridge, Janet Bainbridge, Fiona Fell and, most recently, Alastair Redpath. Mike has also been involved with the management of Sutton Bridge throughout three decades and provided me with valuable support during that time for which I am enormously grateful.

In 2009 Mike was awarded the PBGA’s James Hardie Award; in 2012, he was awarded the British Potato Industry Award and in 2017, received the John Green Memorial Trophy (below) for his exceptional contribution to the British potato industry. Apt recognition of a glittering career. In his spare time, he enjoys family life, travelling, walking and birdwatching, whilst keeping an occasional eye on the exploits of Newcastle United to remind him of his Geordie roots.

We wish him and his wife, Barbara, a long, fruitful and enjoyable retirement, which has been hard earned and very well deserved.

Adrian Cunnington

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