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Seeing the practical outcomes of good science

9 October 2013

Optimising marketable yield was a common theme at AHDB Potatoes’s East Midlands Potato Day and the Cultivation and Nematicide trials event at Slingsby, Yorkshire this summer. Video footage has been captured so levy-payers can get a flavour of the technical presentations at both events.  

AHDB Potatoes’s Grower Collaboration project started in 2007 and takes research from small replicated trial plots to larger farm-scale blocks, to give growers the confidence to adopt the latest findings in their own set-up
During East of England Potato Day at the end of August, CUF’s David Firman, gave an overview of the the learnings and successes from depth of destoning, nitrogen and seed rate trials, which have been conducted by growers round the country. 
“The grower in conjunction with their agronomist is responsible for providing cropping information and establishing comparisons, whilst CUF provides an improved agronomy programme based on the information supplied. The data can be used to assess the carbon footprint of crops and evaluate the benefit of nitrogen reduction in this area,” explained David. 
AHDB Potatoes board member and North Norfolk grower, Tony Bambridge, said, “The AHDB Potatoes funded, Grower Collaborations project, clearly demonstrated the importance of having independent and rigorous trials that provide statistical robustness, which we as an industry can rely on.  Going forward, I’m going to stop listening to the sales pitches from non-replicated trials work.“
Nothing beats seeing the science in practice
Growers gathered over three days in August at Slingsby Bank, Yorkshire, where AHDB Potatoes-funded cultivation and nematicide trials were on show. 
Innovative host farmer Andrew Wilson, who grows for the processing sector, opened his farm gate for other levy payers to examine field trials looking at the variety of cultivations and nematicide application options available. 
The practical and economic outcomes were discussed to benefit growers’ own situations. It proved to be such a popular event that we made videos, which you can view online.
Potato farmers in the last few years have experienced variable planting, growing and lifting seasons, each with different challenges. “As our potato operation has evolved, I’ve yearned to try the latest science on my own farm and I’m pleased that we have had the opportunity this year to be involved in extensive AHDB Potatoes-funded cultivation and nematicide best practice trials,” explained Andrew.
“However, seeing the outcomes working in real life is all very well, but I’m pleased that AHDB Potatoes arranged and filmed an open event, so other growers could see the study first hand and take away best practice.” 
Introduction and trial background – Video 1 of 7 (Timings of key messages are given in minutes and seconds below. If you want to skip to a key section, drag the white circle to the relevant timeslot)
00.05 AHDB Potatoes technical executive Phil Bradshaw
00.36 Matt Smallwood SAC consulting & John Sarup, Spud Agronomy
00.54 Andrew Wilson, Slingsby Grower and host farmer describes his passion for improving efficiency and costs 
02.05 Matt Smallwood discusses the replicated cultivation and nematicide trials
03.15 John Sarup provides details about the trials site and innovator crop
Matt Smallwood of SAC Consulting and John Sarup of Spud Agronomy have been working together with Yorkshire grower Andrew Wilson, to produce replicated field trials on Andrew’s farm on the Castle Howard estate, where there is a long history of potato growing. These trials examined a range of primary and secondary cultivation options using commercially available machinery, alongside trials examining nematicide and in-furrow application of fungicides.
Primary cultivations – Video 2 of 7
00.15 Matt Smallwood SAC consulting: Primary Cultivations – comparing deep ploughing; shallow ploughing; Shakerator; Sumo Trio; and George Moate Tillerstar
06.12 John Sarup, Spud Agronomy discusses ploughing on top
07.23 Host Farmer, Andrew Wilson discusses seasonal implications
08.39 Matt Smallwood discusses the costs associated with the different options
09.11 Andrew Wilson discusses standard practice
10.58 Matt Smallwood penetrometers and soil resistance
14.50 Canopy development and emergence
15.57 Achieving optimal rooting and evaluating the soil profile
Andrew, a grower for the Colton group, and whose family has farmed in the Slingsby region for decades, is constantly looking for opportunities to improve his crop. Not one to shy away from innovation (yet never far from his trusty spade) Andrew worked with Matt and John to produce the replicated trials which attracted much grower interest.
“There’s always a better way of doing things” Andrew stated. “After one particularly successful experiment where I combined two different machinery parts to apply soil treatments, I was able to increase the effectiveness of my nematicide application by a further two weeks. With these products costing around £400 per hectare, you’ve got to look at new ways to keep your costs down without sacrificing productivity.”
John Wright, who coordinates the Colton group, said, “AHDB Potatoes put on a very relevant day, we see developing group knowledge as a key to providing ever improving results for our customer McCain. It was valuable for the group to see and discuss best practice with technical experts on a one-to-one basis.” 
Matt Smallwood guided the growers around the cultivation plots to examine primary, secondary and bed preparation trials, and the impact that different machinery and methodology have on compaction, the subsequent root systems, and whether deeper or shallower ploughing gives the most effective outcome.
Secondary cultivations –Video 3 of 7
00.00 Matt Smallwood introduction 
04.10 Matt Smallwood secondary cultivations cost comparisons
04.35 Penetrometers, soil resistance and rooting
06.50 Canopy development 
10.50 Soil profiles and root 
17.41 Effect of different varieties on rooting.
19.34 Andrew Wilson discusses his changing cultivations practice over the last ten years
23.00 Andrew Wilson discuss initial trials and successes
Several growers asked about optimum cultivation depth to which Matt responded “There is no ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution. Try one pass in the field, then do a dig and assess the results before you commit to your cultivation for that season, or for that particular field. Cultivating deep where soil is plastic at depth can result in more damage being caused to soil structure. Centimetres can make a difference.”  
Bed preparation –Video 4 of 7
00.30 comparisons on course and fine bed tilth and links to emergence, canopy, tuber number and yield.
1.20 Standen Pearson Unistar vs Webstar compared
2.21 Penetrometers, soil resistance and rooting
3.52 Andrew Wilson talks about his standard farm practice and learning from trials and experiments.
6.20 Matt Smallwood discuss tilth and tuber quality
John Sarup took the groups around the nematicide trial plots, explaining that “PCN is arguably the biggest threat to the industry in terms of marketable yield. £14m is spent by industry on nematicides each year and even correct application only achieves around 60% effectiveness.” John advises “It is important to know the species of PCN that you are dealing with. Apply nematicides to the correct depth - around 10-15cm - and consider product choice and rate according to species to achieve maximum effectiveness.”
Fungicides – AHDB Potatoes demonstration, Slingsby, North Yorkshire August, 2013
Video 5 of 7
00.01 John Sarup, in furrow fungicide treatments for control of PCN and free living nematodes
1.33 Trials of Amistar (fungicide) for soil and Seed bourne Rhizoctonia 
4.40 Subliem (fungicide) trials
5.01 Free living nematodes
5.39 Matt Smallwood 2013 conditions for Rhizoctonia and free living nematodes
9.44 Test dig trends from trials
12.16 Nematicides and fry colour
12.50 Emergence results
Nematicides – Video 6 of 7
1.13 John Sarup the difference between Globodera rostochiensis and pallida. 
2.20 The difference between resistance vs tolerance
4.07 Applying nematicides 
5.16 Andrew Wilson discuss changing farm practice in PCN management
9.44 John Sarup discuss applying nematicide and getting effectiveness
13.24 Trial digs and yield analysis
Leading supply chain growers, and event supporters, Cockerills met up with many of the local supply chain growers at the event. Martin Cockerill, managing director of the company commented “It’s good to see levy invested in field trials researching the issues that growers need more information on. Seeing outcomes first-hand from funded R&D work allows growers to take back the very latest research findings, apply it on farm and see improved results pretty much right away”.
Dr Mark Stalham, soils and irrigation expert at NIAB-CUF, joined the grower group examining the cultivation plots, and commented that “Whilst deeper roots may not be strictly necessary for maintaining yield in irrigated situations, in the UK they are the buffer for water uptake during drought periods, coming into their own when crops are stressed on hot days”.
Has Andrew changed his view on what will do next year?
See Andrew’s personal take home messages here:
Video 7 of 7 
Host farmer Andrew Wilson discusses the take home messages from the trials results so far.
The full trial results from the harvested crop will be avaialble to attendees at BP2013, 27 & 28 November at the Yorkshire Event Centre in Harrogate. AHDB Potatoes technical executive Phil Bradshaw, who project manages the Grower Collaboration trials will be on the AHDB Potatoes stand to discuss best practice with levy-payers. To register for your free BP2013 tickets and avoid queues on day go to:
Further Grower Collaboration demonstrations have been planned for 2014, keep checking for the latest AHDB Potatoes technical event listings.
To view the latest on the AHDB Potatoes video channel go to:
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