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Successful Storage is within reach of the whole industry

24 September 2012

Successful storage is within reach of the whole industry - but neglect the store at your peril!!

The team at Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research is gearing up for the AHDB Potatoes Storage Day to be held at SBCSR on 29th November.
The day will feature a range of activities, all with a storage theme and will be a must attend event for all those facing the challenges of the 2012/13 season.
There will be a series of demonstrations and displays on current research topics, ranging from blackheart prevention to the use of ethylene for sprout control, from SBCSR and collaborating research organisations.
Trade stands will be present featuring all the key suppliers to the industry and a programme of seminars will include requirements for CIPC use under Red Tractor Farm Assurance and investment in storage. BASIS and NRoSO points will be available. See for more information.
There are plans for a storage clinic (so feel free to bring along any samples) and there will also be an opportunity to submit questions to industry experts in two Question Time–style panel sessions. These will be themed around storage for the processing and fresh sectors, when the experiences and implications of the 2012 harvest will be discussed. 
Hopefully by then, by drawing collectively on industry expertise where it’s needed, the crop will have been harvested and safely loaded into store. “Storage can be successful - even under the testing conditions we are currently experiencing – with the application of a few basic principles” says Adrian Cunnington, Head of SBCSR. “But quantifying risk in advance is crucial so that effort can be focused where the likelihood of problems is highest”.
Always ensure the crop is suitable for storage before loading. The late season is making skin set more difficult to achieve – especially where moisture is now in short supply - but an intact tuber skin is vital to maintaining the potato’s integrity in storage. No only does it form a barrier to moisture loss, but it is crucial to preventing infection. Watch out for diseases which could have already compromised the crop such as blackleg, pink rot or tuber blight; levels are higher this year than for many years but vary from region to region.
With harvest at least 3 weeks later than usual, be prepared to deal with periods of cold weather and any consequences, such as a higher risk of bruising and damage – especially given the clod-ridden field conditions for many. Curing will be rapid where it’s warm (10°C plus) but the rate of wound healing diminishes as temperatures fall so more time will need to be allowed, for the tuber to repair any damage.
Matching stores to risk is important to get the best out of the hardware that’s available for storage. For example, a positively-ventilated drying wall can be used repeatedly to mitigate the threat posed to crops most at risk from bacterial breakdown.
Ensuring air is utilised to the maximum is also extremely important. First and foremost, air has to get to the crop so loose soil needs to be removed to allow this. Air will always take the path of least resistance so it won’t pass through a box full of potatoes and soil if there is an easier route for it to take. This means taking every possible measure to eliminate short circuiting – even if these are temporary measures such as offsetting boxes or erecting tarpaulins.
Box stacking can be crucial to getting a store to work correctly and is just as important where CIPC is being used for even application of the chemical. Best practice for CIPC use now requires formation of a covered plenum within each block – so discuss this with your contractor before loading. Advice on box stacking patterns is available from Sutton Bridge on 0800 0282 111.
And, of course, the air needs to be of the right quality to do the job required – which, fundamentally, is to dry and cool the crop. Particular care needs to be taken not to re-wet crops once they are in store. A common misconception is that ventilating on a sunny day will always do some good. It may not. If the air is warmer than the potatoes, humidity can be high enough in the autumn to create a significant risk of condensation. Hold back any ambient ventilation until the outside air is at a similar (or cooler) temperature to the crop.
Above all, there will be a need to focus attention on the store at all times – and one of the most important periods will be during harvest. There will be a potential for things to change quickly and store managers must be ready to react to this, so the need for daily checks is paramount. Neglect the store at your peril!

Specialists at Sutton Bridge CSR are on hand to answer your queries on storage on the AHDB Potatoes Storage Advice Line – call free on 0800 02 82 111.

Grower Gateway - Issue 7, 2012
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