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Seed Industry insights for Next Generation

17 November 2016

AHDB Potatoes’ Next Generation headed to see the science behind potato seed on a two-day Scottish tour earlier this month.

The group explored pre-basic minituber production on the first morning – the start of the process for the entire £4.8 billlion potato industry in Great Britain.

Virtually all seed potato stocks produced in Scotland originate from the in-vitro, pathogen-tested microplant nuclear stock maintained by SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture), a Scottish government institution the group visited that same afternoon.

First up, the group were taken through the production processes at GenTech Propagation Ltd in Dundee, from initial splicing and microplant propagation, to minituber grading and bagging.

Adam Lidstone, of ware growers and packers A J Lidstone and Son, hailing from the opposite end of the British Isles in Devon, said: “Before today, I hadn’t any appreciation of the intensive operations involved in generating the seed that eventually arrives at our farm.

“This visit also helped clarify for me all the classification categories, providing some thoughts on how that might play into my seed purchasing decisions.”

With only one seed grower in the group, Andrew Johnston of Albanwise Farming Ltd, the delegates welcomed the visit as an opportunity to learn more about the details of seed production:

“Even for me in my role, I had not seen the extent of the process prior to the commodity I’m involved in producing. The morning was a real eye-opener,” said Mr Johnston.

Speaking about the Next Generation visit, GenTech Manager Nigel Ebblewhite said: “We feel it’s important for all involved in the supply chain to gain a better understanding and awareness of the many steps involved in producing a humble potato.”

Heading next to the Scottish Government facility, the delegates were hosted by SASA’s export liaison officer Jacqueline Gibson.

Mrs Gibson introduced them to the array of specialist services in place to preserve and ensure the high health status of Scottish seed potatoes.

Key members of the potato and plant health teams provided insights into potato DNA fingerprinting, variety collections and virology, before the group tried their hand at microplant cutting within a mock sterile setup.

AHDB-sponsored nematology Fellow, Dr Kim Davie, provided a close-up look at SASA’s advanced soil-testing systems which help keep Scottish seed land free of Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN).

The group concluded their tour with a demonstration of SASA's Seed Potato Universal Data System - a set of unified records tracking potato seed and ware production and associated health data across the country.

Offering traceability and field history useful for planning rotations, it has also proved valuable to scientific research in areas such as disease outbreak distribution monitoring.

The following day, the Next Generation delegates took an active role in the Seed Industry Event, a biennial conference focusing on the issues that matter for those involved in seed potatoes and the supply chain.

Offering the complete picture of the challenges and complexities of seed production and exports, it was the perfect forum for flexing their networking and facilitation skills, all under the conference theme of ‘collective responsibility’.

In the morning plenaries, Next Generation delegate Edward Backhouse, a Yorkshire-based processing-ware grower, questioned a panel of ‘Brexperts’ on how importantly agriculture might be rated in any future trade negotiations.

In the afternoon each Next Generation member facilitated a workshop session on Blackleg, seeking to draw out current industry understanding of management and control strategies.

Steven Bell, Fieldsman for Albert Bartlett & Sons, explained how the Next Generation programme helps to develop the future leaders of the potato industry.

He said: “Through a broadening of perspectives, and enhanced understanding, I’m hoping that better supply chain relationships will arise which will ultimately support and encourage collaborative approaches to tackling industry challenges and protecting its future.”

The Next Generation continue their year-long knowledge-expansion tour in January with a trip to Westminster and NFU in London.

There they will hope to better understand the political and regulatory spheres in which the potato industry must work to thrive.

For personal profiles and articles and videos following their journey, visit

- Ends -

Notes to editors

AHDB is a statutory levy board, funded by farmers, growers and others in the supply chain. Its purpose is to equip levy payers with independent, evidence-based information and tools to grow, become more competitive and sustainable. Established in 2008 and classified as a Non-Departmental Public Body, it supports the following industries: meat and livestock (cattle, sheep and pigs) in England; horticulture, milk and potatoes in Great Britain; and cereals and oilseeds in the UK. AHDB’s remit covers 75 per cent of total UK agricultural output. Further information on AHDB can be found at


For further information contact Helen Williams, Marcomms Executive (AHDB Potatoes) on 024 7647 8662 or  

For out of hours enquiries,call AHDB press office on 024 7647 8800 or email






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