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Summer’s the time for store upgrades

24 June 2013

As the final stores unload, now is the time to consider preparations and enhancements for the next season. Head of Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research (SBCSR) Adrian Cunnington highlights the AHDB Potatoes’s storage roadshows in July, which will cover energy efficiency, upgrades and the potential for changes to regulations covering the use of the sprout suppressant chlorpropham (CIPC).

Annual machinery maintenance, servicing refrigeration equipment, sensor calibration and basic store hygiene, to remove potential sources of disease carry-over, are vital to ensure optimum performance for the autumn stored crop.
 
But preparation for short term summer storage shouldn’t be overlooked, as decisions to lift buffer stocks are usually made at very short notice, as weather windows change. High value, early season crop requires good, controlled ventilation as the newly lifted material’s respiration rates are especially high at warm ambient temperatures. Storage hygiene is essential for loose skin material, as the tubers don’t have the same barrier to breakdown, as set skin material entering long term storage.
 
“Summer is a good time to analyse your storage costs. Data gathered by the SBCSR team shows a very wide range of running costs in commercial stores, varying by as much as 300 per cent from the poorest to the best, so drilling down to the detail could really pay dividends,” explains Adrian. “The best fresh stores are using around 0.20 kWh/t/day, whilst the better processing stores are using about half of that”. If you can’t measure energy use to get these figures, Adrian strongly recommends looking to install sub-meters over the summer so that you can.
 
Beyond this, basic improvements to a store can greatly improve its performance. “A store audit from SBCSR is a good place to start. For a subsidised fee, the team can come out to levy payers’ stores, inspect the store set-up and provide advice on enhancements to improve performance and lower costs. A review of records from the season is also useful and can, depending on the information available, normally assess the relative performance of your store compared with industry."
 
Potential changes to CIPC use
 
Feedback from the Advisory Committee on Pesticides’ (ACP) review of CIPC stewardship is now expected in the autumn. This has involved the submission of reports from the Potato Industry CIPC Stewardship Group and the CIPC Approval Holders, which were delivered into CRD earlier this year.
 
The stewardship process was introduced to address on-going concerns with exceedance of the maximum residue level in a small number of monitoring samples taken by the Defra Expert Committee on Pesticide Residues in Food (PRiF).
 
“Until the ACP’s decisions are known, there is little point in trying to second guess the outcome,” adds Adrian. “But suffice to say, with a few exceedances still being found,  changes are probable and any measures which look to improve the uniformity of CIPC distribution in store will be beneficial in future seasons.
 
“The maximum CIPC application rates are currently 36g/t for fresh market and 63.75g/t for processing potatoes, and these are likely to reduce over the next few years. European legislation will limit CIPC use to a maximum of 36g/t by 2017, so industry preparation will be imperative.”
 
Preparing for future changes
 
With these potential changes on the horizon, we have put together a series of regional potato storage roadshows on CIPC application best practice and storage efficiency during July.
 
 
Potato Storage Day, 18 July
 
A dedicated Potato Storage Day will be taking place on 18 July in Lincoln. This event is intended for store owners, managers and agronomists looking for in-depth information on current topical areas specifically relevant to storage, which will be presented by AHDB Potatoes and industry specialists.
 
Morning presentations will take place at the Bentley Hotel and will include CIPC stewardship whilst application and best practice will be covered by Adrian Briddon from SBCSR. Jon Swain from Farm Energy Centre and Adrian Cunnington will discuss reducing energy use in potato storage.
 
Interactive on-farm workshops will take place during the afternoon at GH Chennells (Farms) Ltd, where SBCSR experts will cover disease impact in storage, solutions for CIPC application and store auditing.
 
There will also be a farm tour, where Jon Swain will join the host and co-owner Andrew Chennells to show attendees his energy efficient potato, onion and cereals stores as well as his renewable energy installation. 
 
Andrew is a finalist for the Farmers Weekly ‘Green Farmer of the Year’ award and the SBCSR team have been working with him for a number of years. His storage costs at £2.50/t are around half the cost of an average farm.
 
As well as humidification units and using outside air for cooling, that use 60 per cent less energy than refrigeration, the stores at Chennells’ have fans fitted with inverters that allow them to run at 80 per cent speed and use 50 per cent less energy than full speed fans.
 
“SBCSR has worked with a number of bulk stores owners that have recently converted to fan-assisted CIPC application in bulk stores, which are usually fitted with inverters to slow the fans down,” says Adrian. “These have proved highly beneficial to more uniform and reduced CIPC applications rates.  At Chennells’, by running fans slowly during application, they have been able to reduce the CIPC rate by 50%, by boosting coverage and this will be covered in more detail at the event on July 18th.”
 
Measures in box stores have been evaluated but require further work in the coming season before firm recommendations can be made. The formation of plenums or covered walkways in stacks for application (to prevent fog directly entering the roof space) is current best practice, but the addition of slow speed fan assistance has not consistently improved these. 
 
Other measures to improve the uniformity of air (and fog) circulation in box stores, such as the fitment of air dividers to overhead-throw stores, are likely to enhance performance but trials on their effectiveness to improve CIPC distribution will not begin until September.  
 
If in doubt, before making significant changes to box stores or to arrange a store audit, speak to one of the SBCSR team on the free storage advice service on 0800 02 82 111. For further information on CIPC, visit the Potato Industry CIPC Stewardship website at www.potato.org.uk/cipc.
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