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Tuber Talk: Jolly good fellows

22 October 2018

The industry is beginning to benefit from the work of AHDB’s first research fellowships. Three research fellows were funded in 2015 – all experts who completed their doctorates on subjects of importance to the potato industry; for example, pest control, who might have ordinarily moved into other fields.

Working on the advice of growers and others who contribute to our board and research committees, AHDB stepped in to fund continued research into these key areas. This was to ensure that knowledge vital to the potato industry was maintained and that a succession plan was in place to replace the ‘potato specialists’ in the research community that we rely on today.

The funding means that our three fellows will have built significant experience in applied research on potatoes. The three fellowships cover crop protection, crop quality and storage – giving an all-round cover for the industry. 

The fellowship researchers are:

Dr Kim Davie (kim.davie@sasa.gsi.gov.uk)

Profile: www.sasa.gov.uk/content/dr-kim-davie

Fellowship title: Development of a succession potato nematologist. 2015–2018 

Focus of fellowship: To carry out a critical review of the current management practices deployed across GB against nematode pests of potatoes, producing a strategy for their future management. With very few nematologists now working in the UK and many of those remaining approaching retirement, the fellowship provided an opportunity to bring in and train an early career researcher. It is anticipated that a job vacancy for a nematologist on a permanent contract will become available at SASA, coinciding with the completion of the term of the fellowship. 

Industry impact: Dr Davie’s work is contributing to an AHDB-published suite of updated PCN management publications, graphics and videos, which will be released from late 2018. At a recent conference, she spoke about researchers, agronomists and growers who have been consulted by AHDB to ensure a coordinated industry response to the growing PCN threat.

Dr Simon Smart (simon.smart@niab.com)

Profile: potatoes.ahdb.org.uk/publications/soil-type-important-factor-tuber-greening

Fellowship title: Understanding tuber formation: maintaining the capability to improve tuber quality attributes including greening. 2015–2018 

Focus of fellowship: Greening is increasingly recognised by packers as making a significant contribution to wastage, but there has been limited progress in reducing its importance through variety selection or modification to agronomy. The fellowship has provided some practical recommendations with regards to cultivations to prevent greening. 

Industry impact: On completion of Simon’s work we were able to rule out stolon architecture and nitrogen rates as causes of greening, as had been suggested anecdotally. It is now confirmed that planting depth and soil type are the key factors. Simon has written articles, was a member of the NIAB CUF team and spoke at previous SPot Farm Events. On completion of his fellowship, he has secured a full-time position at NIAB, keeping his skills and expertise in the potato sector.

Dr Claudia Carvalho (c.carvalho@greenwich.ac.uk)

Profile: www.nri.org/people/carvalho-claudia

Fellowship title: Sustaining expertise in potato post-harvest physiology. 2015–2018 

Focus of fellowship: A research programme on the effects of mineral nutrition and tuber respiration/diffusion characteristics on storage potential of tubers, which also aims to provide training to an early career scientist in techniques of potato storage physiology/biochemistry.

Industry impact: Claudia completed her doctorate as part of her fellowship this year. She has presented her work at conferences both in the UK and Europe and findings have been shared via AHDB’s Storage Bulletin newsletter.

 

 

 

 

 

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