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Seed Industry Event

2 August 2011

If we don’t protect our plant health status every potato business in Britain will lose out, said AHDB Potatoes chairman Allan Stevenson at this year’s Seed Industry Event at Crieff Hydro on October 26.

Allan called on all potato growers to be acutely aware of the provenance of their seed and to take personal responsibility for ensuring neither they nor their customers end up with a plant health problem. To view Allan’s speech click here.

Delegates attending this year’s Seed Industry Event heard from the chair of the Canadian Horticultural Council Keith Kuhl who spoke about the plant challenges faced by Canadian growers and how they addressed them. To view presentation click here.

“It is vital we avoid introducing new plant health problems,” said AHDB Potatoes head of seed and export, Mark Prentice who organised the event. “There are many parallels that we can draw between what happened in Canada and what could happen here if new diseases such as Ring Rot and Dickeya are permitted to take hold. Keith also highlighted the importance of communication within industry and between industry and Government.”

There are high expectations that genetics will help address many of the issues the sector currently faces. Dr Anton Haverkort of Plant Research International, Wageningen in the Netherlands examined some of the global trends to which breeding is expected to respond. Not only are we looking for a higher, better quality yield, but also fewer soil operations, less use of fertiliser and lower environmental impact, all in addition to greater disease resistance. To view presentation click here.

These two keynote speeches were followed by lively discussions at the workshops as growers discussed their own concerns directly with researchers. This year topics included the latest research on the blackleg type disease ‘Dickeya solani’ with Dr John Elphinstone from Fera and Prof Ian Toth from SCRI (To view article click here or to view presentation click here) and effective seed treatments with Dr Stuart Wale and Dr Jon Ogborne. To view presentation click here or to view article click here.

Adrian Cunnington, head of Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research, focused on issues to improve cost-effectiveness of storage. “Store managers need to measure energy use in addition to exploring ways of improving efficiency whilst maintaining quality,” said Adrian. To view presentation click here.

“Good store management maximises air delivery throughout the store to achieve close control of temperature whilst minimising external effects on the store environment,” he explained. “It is important to remember that both disease and non-pathological quality issues reduce return and therefore impact on profit margins.”

Caroline Evans, AHDB Potatoes head of marketing updated growers on changing consumer needs and current industry trends. “AHDB Potatoes latest research on consumers attitudes to potatoes and their usage provides some good insights on opportunities in the market which were discussed in the ‘Changing Consumer Needs’ workshop,” says Caroline. To view presentation click here.

Principal research scientist Dr Brian Fenton from SCRI updated delegates on the latest results from the AHDB Potatoes three-year project on aphid borne potato potyviruses (PVY and PVA).
According to Brian, there are many potential sources of potyvirus; however the aphid species which carry these viruses will vary according to location, time of year and between years.
The research Brian and his colleagues have undertaken has shown that many areas of Scotland were overwhelmed with rose grain aphids this year and he considers it is likely that where this happened, these were the main PVY and PVA vectors.
“The sheer numbers of rose grain aphids in 2010 made conventional insecticide control very difficult,” said Brian. “This dramatic increase is partly due to many of their natural predators such as the ladybird not surviving last year’s cold winter.” To view presentation click here.

In the afternoon the focus was on customer satisfaction and the importance of the supply chain. John Wiskerke, director of raw and supply chain from Lamb Weston Meijer stressed the importance of growing businesses through supporting customers. According to John, supply chain success depends on all elements adding value to the product rather than just adding a margin. To view presentation click here.

The keynote speeches ended with seed grower Tony Bambridge’s upbeat speech that examined the areas in which the British seed industry is strong. Rigorous phytosanitary health standards, technical knowledge and a viable infrastructure have all been fundamental to the growth of the sector, he said. The consumer does not really care about a seed industry; it just has to be there. He then discussed with delegates the level of readiness of the industry to maintain and increase success. To view presentation click here.

The event rounded up with the traditional dinner and awards ceremony. To view article click here.

“The feedback from delegates on the top-class speakers from home and abroad has been very positive,” commented Mark. “We can draw many parallels with the challenges our international speakers have faced in their own countries and we can learn from each other the best way to address issues such as plant health threats.

“There was a high level of participation in discussions demonstrating the importance to the industry of the plant health, seed production and the market.”

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