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Storage 2020 - looking ahead to address post-harvest challenges

8 April 2014

AHDB Potatoes sustainable storage initiative 'Storage 2020' got underway with a new conference in February, which was sponsored by Certis and held at Peterborough Arena. Over 250 industry delegates saw experts from the UK and overseas present their thoughts on how GB’s potato storage needs to change to meet the demands of 2020 and beyond. 

 
“Storage 2020 has been introduced with a strong focus on how GB’s potato storage can be made more successful and sustainable to ensure that industry remains fit-for-purpose into the next decade” says Adrian Cunnington, AHDB Potatoes Head of Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research.
 
‘StoreCheck’ launches soon
 
This spring sees the launch of ‘StoreCheck’ as part of the Storage2020 initiative. This is a new store auditing service being launched by AHDB Potatoes and delivered by Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research and Farm Energy Centre. 
 
‘StoreCheck’ is a nationwide service that is being made available on an optional basis to anyone involved in storage, with store leakage measurement, energy usage advice major facets of the test.
 
“There is a wide level of efficiency being operated between GB stores,” added Adrian. "Stores need to investment to increase efficiency and to be able to maximise returns." 
 
“The target is to assess 250 stores in the first year of the initiative and costs will vary from £440-£640 per store, depending on capacity,” says Adrian. “Approximately 3.5 m tonnes of potatoes are stored in GB each year in approximately 2,500 stores by around 1,000 growers.
 
Storage 2020 conference
 
Reflecting on the event, Adrian Cunnington Head of SBCSR, said “Crop storage challenges in the years ahead were put under intense scrutiny, with plenty of thought-provoking debate on how we can make it more successful, cost-effective and sustainable.”
 
The opening conference speaker Romke Wustman from PPO Lelystad in The Netherlands spoke about declining production in developed, temperate zones against a background of ever-increasing demand for food in developing countries. Click on the clip images to revisit all the presentations.
 
Paul Coleman, Group Technical Director of Greenvale said that it was important to recognise that the GB potato industry is a mature market. So efficiency in store was a key theme for him and this was echoed by other speakers across the day. 
 
Dan Hewitt of Nelson County Potatoes, and recently-appointed AHDB Potatoes Board member, stressed “If you store, there are ‘must-haves’. You need to be high-spec, with high-grade insulation and to plan for the long term. Even in the most efficient stores, energy costs can be significant so don’t be afraid of trying new things - embrace change!”
 
Several speakers pointed out that a store is not a hospital and even the best storage regime will not help tubers ‘get better’ if they go into store damaged, bruised or diseased. However, there is much a store manager can do to protect the crop once in storage. One overarching theme emerged along the lines of ‘you only get out of storage what you put in’. 
 
Another keynote contributor, Todd Forbush, from the US company Techmark, urged producers to do everything in their power to avoid damaging potatoes. He suggested that this is the single most important action that can be taken to protect crops in storage. 
 
The disease and pests workshop highlighted that tuber tissue is an excellent host for pathogens. Workshop leader Ian Toth of the James Hutton Institute stressed that as pathogens love moisture, it was crucial to dry your crop as soon as it gets into store. Todd Forbush spoke further on the importance of air quality going through your store and the necessity for the air to be able to absorb moisture, not simply blow more into the stored crop. John Horrocks of PepsiCo put it clearly and succinctly by stating “We are managing air, not potatoes.”
 
Sprout suppressants, CIPC planning and management were key themes throughout the day. Adrian Briddon from Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research, Richard Colgan from the Natural Resources Institute and Tjaart Hofman of Certis Europe led the session on sprout suppression and CIPC alternatives including the latest information on ethylene. 
 
With ever-tougher legislative regimes, the future of sprout suppressant products is increasingly under the spotlight and advances in residue testing technology now allow detection of residue levels at minute levels. 
 
Speakers emphasised the need for industry to collaborate to ensure sustainability and longevity into the future. 
 
The CIPC Stewardship Group has been working extremely hard to ensure that the legal Maximum Residue Level (MRL) is not exceeded by anyone - at all – using the product. If CIPC were to be withdrawn this would have a major impact on the wider potato industry.
 
James Lee, Technical Manager at Greenvale, lead a discussion on threats to the fresh supply chain, warned “The risk to CIPC’s continuing availability for industry to use safely in storage is not from those of us here today; it is from those in the industry who use CIPC but have never attended a AHDB Potatoes event on CIPC stewardship and run the real risk of over-application.”
 
IGD’s sustainability analyst Alan Hayes provided his opinion and insight into the likely developments we can expect in terms of retailer and consumer demands within the next 6 years leading up to 2020.
 
Storage 2020 TIPS (The Interactive Potato Store)
 
A brand new resource, dubbed The Interactive Potato Store (TIPS), has been launched as part of the Storage 2020 initiative. Growers can register at www.potato.org.uk/TIPS.
 
TIPS allows you to discover and view information about how to make your stores more efficient. The interactive tool demonstrates many research projects that SBCSR and Farm Energy have been involved in, for AHDB Potatoes levy-payers. The smart graphics and intuitive interface makes it easy to quickly find what you are looking for and learn about store efficiency with ease.
 
Storage 2020 dates for your diary
 
Since 1964, Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research has worked to improve the quality of produce, especially potatoes, through a better understanding of storage. And a major focus has always been to ensure technology transfer of the latest research and development findings to change the way businesses store their crops. 
 
To celebrate 50 years of research at this unique facility, a Storage 2020 day dedicated to storage development, knowledge exchange and latest best practice will take place at SBCSR on 3 July. This will be preceded by a ‘Summer Potato Feast’, an industry dinner, to be held at King’s Lynn on the evening of 2 July. Further details and booking information will be made available soon. 
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