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Potatoes in Practice grows for growers

27 June 2014

With up to 1000 industry visitors expected, Potatoes in Practice (PiP), is sponsored by AHDB Potatoes and supported by Potato Review magazine and is the UK’s largest technical field event for the potato industry. It provides key topical technical content to hundreds of growers and industry movers and shakers and this year it will be held on Thursday 7th August, at the James Hutton Institute’s Balruddery Farm, Invergowrie, near Dundee. 

PiP, organised and hosted by the James Hutton Institute, is held in association with Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and Agrii. The event offers the anticipated high-standard mix of science, technology and practical advice.  The packed one-day programme takes the form of agronomy and variety trial plots with guided tours, a technical seminar programme, research and trade stands, static and working machinery displays and – another first for PiP – harvesting clinics. 
Industry visitors travel from far and wide to come to PiP. Michael Bubb, a Shropshire grower who also sits on AHDB Potatoes Research and Knowledge Transfer Committee, remarks “Going to PiP is a really worthwhile trip for me. I can meet a lot of people and catch up with the news in the industry and see for myself what AHDB Potatoes does for growers through investment of levy in key research and knowledge transfer activities.’’ 
Currently, AHDB Potatoes sponsors thirty-five R&D projects and communicates the practical outcomes from these levy-funded projects to growers and wider industry via wide-ranging communications channels, including technical events such as PiP. 
Visitors can find out about all levy-funded R&D projects and technical campaigns by visiting AHDB Potatoes stand in the marquee, where the technical team will be on hand to help.
This year the AHDB Potatoes-sponsored field plots and demonstrations, coordinated for them by Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), will be looking at several important topics. A cultivation plot will demonstrate the implications of stronger and weaker rooting systems of differing varieties. An off-site blight demonstration trial is being planned, to be shown on-site via video with supporting talks and info boards. A field plot will demonstrate the effects of mineral oils on aphid control, using aphid traps to demonstrate the differences between treated and untreated crop. Plus, common scab will be examined, using replicated trials to show the effects of different treatments.
Further trials and demos will look at foliar and crop nutrition, high-grade seed production, seed tuber treatments and bio-controls. Plus, growers can take a look at all the current and new varieties available and talk to the breeders.
Protecting crop quality at harvest
Crop damage at harvest costs industry around £200/hectare every year. To complement AHDB Potatoes Damage Awareness campaign, Claire Hodge, AHDB Potatoes technical executive for Scotland, has developed new harvesting clinics especially for PiP. At the clinics, growers and machinery operators can hear talks from the leading machinery manufacturers and experts in growing, harvesting and grading and there’ll be scheduled talks from Greenvale, Tong Peal, Grimme and Standon Pearson. Visitors can also drop in throughout the day to examine equipment, discuss how planting methodologies can minimise damage, look at different machinery settings and maintenance regimes and how these can make a big difference to maintaining the crop quality at harvest time. You’ll find the harvesting clinics near the live machinery demos.
This year is the 14th PiP event, which has been held at the James Hutton Institute’s Balruddery Farm since 2008. The event started as a small, informal potato crop walk event at the Institute’s former Gourdie Farm but rapidly grew into what is now GB’s largest field-based potato event. The James Hutton Institute is a world-leader in crop and environmental science and work at their Dundee site focuses on supporting agriculture.
A big draw last year, the live machinery demos will be held again this year. Euan Caldwell, James Hutton Institute Farm Manager, has been instrumental in preparing the site and developing the working machinery demos. Euan says “We’ll see Agricar working a Grimme GB215 mounted belt potato planter, which allows growers to plant a variation of different sized potatoes in a two or three row bed formation and gives enhanced output speeds. Alan MacKay Machinery will be demonstrating the Tillerstar. Grimme UK will demonstrate their all-new SV260 offset two-row harvester with 5.8 tonne bunker. Also RGD Forfar will be demonstrating a Scanstone windrower and Dewulf self-propelled harvester. There will be a lot to see, working live on the site.
“The machinery demos are scheduled to run twice, at 09.00am and again at 4.00pm, so there’ll be an opportunity for all visitors to see them,” advises Euan.
PCN, slugs and aphids
The PiP seminar programme forms a key part of the technical knowledge exchange with growers, with three practical topics being discussed this year. 
PCN is an increasing concern for growers, and costs industry £14m a year in treatment costs. Dr Jon Pickup, Head of Virology and Zoology at SASA, will look at the challenges that PCN presents to seed and ware growers and how land management and best practice can help growers actively lower PCN populations in the soil to help maintain optimum yields. Jon will also highlight how AHDB Potatoes PCN Calculator tool demonstrates the implications that actions have on the level of G. pallida infestations and the effect on predicted yields.
After a mild winter and fears that aphid populations could be an increased cause for concern this year, Dr Brian Fenton of the James Hutton Institute will provide a seasonal update and examine the impacts of aphids as virus vectors, and update visitors on the levy-funded R&D work underway to help us understand more about how aphids can be monitored and controlled.
Dr Andy Evans of Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) will be talking about slug control, and giving a seasonal update on slug populations. Andy will emphasise best practice and show how the timing and precision in treatment applications is important, and to know which species of slugs you’re dealing with. Andy will also look at advice for post-harvest treatment and provide updates on key treatment products.
Robert Burns, AHDB Potatoes head of seed and export says “Potatoes in Practice will give growers an excellent chance to find out about the latest government, AHDB Potatoes and industry-supported initiatives. 
“In addition to the technical seminars, there will be key seasonal advice from experts in their field on current crop nutrition, pests and disease issues, as well as the latest products and equipment on the trade stand exhibits and machinery displays.                    
Robert adds “PiP has a solid track record of providing growers and wider industry with the latest science and technical advice, with around 900 attendees last year. It’s a very wide-ranging field day and there’s something there for everybody, from agronomists to students to researchers and farmers alike. We’d encourage everybody to come along.”
For more information on the event, including visitor booking information, visit: 
For more information on AHDB Potatoes damage awareness campaign, visit: 
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