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Potato growers benefit from combined AHDB resources

2 August 2011

“Levy-payers are starting to benefit from combined resources and elimination of duplication, brought about by the amalgamation of the six industry-funded levy bodies into the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB),” Mr Stevenson told 200 growers and purchasers at the AHDB Potatoes East Midlands Potato Day held at QV Foods near Spalding. “The potato industry faces significant challenges and the AHDB Potatoes is here to guide levy payers through these difficult economic times.

“On the growing front, Dickeya is a new and highly virulent disease threat from the continent and we don’t know enough about it yet,” he continued. “We need to know more and that is why we have pooled resources with the Scottish Government to fund a new £500,000 three-year study.”

The AHDB Potatoes head of seed and export, Mark Prentice, explained the organisation’s proactive approach to regulation, noting that it affects everyone in the potato industry and there is no escape.

“It is not all negative, however,” he asserted. “Recent legislation concerning Dickeya passed by the Scottish Government is to protect the industry over the long term.

“We really can’t afford to let in diseases such as Dickeya,” he continued. “England imports 10% of its seed for ware and this could open the door for exotic diseases to enter if the greatest care isn’t taken.

“Regulation in plant health is very important, but it does have to be proportionate as it is only part of the solution.

“The new PCN regulations passed by the English and Scottish governments are also examples of protective legislation that has come about as a response to consultations, stakeholder meetings and guidance from FERA and the Scottish Government. The main objectives of these regulations are to protect clean land and free up production on registered infested land. However, growers will benefit as they can now choose the variety according to their commercial needs.”

Following a hog roast lunch, practical field sessions looked at bruise management, catchment sensitive farming issues, putting research into practice for cost saving on seed and nitrogen, and real benefits from precision farming for potato production.
“These practical discussions are vital to being ready for business,” said Gary Collins at AHDB Potatoes. “Delegates have the opportunity to discuss their concerns with speakers, so can really benefit from their knowledge and experience.”

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