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Tuber Talk: Strategic Potato Farm end of season results

22 October 2018

We had over 600 people attend our Open Days and Field Walks up and down the UK over the season. With advice from industry experts in what turned out to be a difficult year - here’s the lowdown from each of our five Strategic Potato Farms.

SPot West 

SPot West’s 2018 programme has focussed on chemical control of PCN and Rhizoctonia as growers and agronomists met at Heal Farms, Shropshire. 

Dr Matthew Back of Harper Adams University presented research, which has shown that PCN attack helps attract the Rhizoctonia fungus towards the tuber stolons. 

However, due to the high temperatures we have experienced this season, the fungus has caused less damage due to the faster emergence of potato crops.

Industry impact 

PCN damage has potential to have a costly impact on the industry. This year’s Results Day will give growers a chance to view results on a range of management methods, such as nematicide incorporation, nematicide options and biofumigation. 

Outcomes from research will be presented at SPot West results day on Wednesday 12 December 2018. 

Keep an eye on for full details.

Dr Back, said:

“Rhizoctonia infection is favoured by cool, dry conditions and despite the fact that host Matthew Wallace expected to have problems due to field history, we’ve seen very little due to the plants emerging more rapidly. “As weather changes throughout the season we’ll have more of a perspective when it comes to results and the effect on yield.”

SPot South West 

Potato growers who visited Dillington Estate this season were given an insight to the potential limiting effects of soil compaction in arable fields. 

Industry impact

Attending SPot South West Results Day on Wednesday 28 November 2018 will give growers the opportunity to discuss the long-term methods available to deal with soil compaction

The result of work on nitrogen rates and the use of alternative fertilisers such as anaerobic digestate will be revealed by Dr Mark Stalham at Frogmary Farm, South Petherton.

Ben Mitchell, Agronomist for Branston Ltd., and member of the SPot South West steering committee, said:

“The soil-pit was a real eye-opener for all of the growers that visited, because here’s a progressive farm manager with a well looked after field that looks good from the surface and when you dig down you find a problem.

This has been a challenging season, and when it is a very wet spring there is the temptation for growers to ‘get on’ too early. I don’t think that was the case here, and Ollie is clearly doing the right thing by inviting other growers to the farm to exchange ideas. In a tough season, working together can make all the difference.”

SPot Scotland 

SPot Farm Scotland at Bruce Farms saw just 39 mm of rainfall over June, less than half of the 20-year average. As temperatures dropped throughout the season we saw a stark change in conditions. 

Industry impact

Looking at best practice for productivity – SPot Scotland has allowed growers to see trials in a real time scenario and see the effects of nitrogen from tuber initiation, right through to storage.

In the 2017/18 season results which followed AHDB’s fertiliser recommendations saw 147 kilos per hectare. However, demonstrations this year have gone as low as 100/125 kilos per hectare, with the expectation of the the crop running out of steam. But with extreme temperature changes, rapid growth spurts and the mixture of additional irrigation and natural rainfall this seasons Results Day, which takes place on March 7 2019 should provide some interesting outcomes.

Kerr Howatson, Farm Manager at Bruce Farms, said:

“We saw very little rain at an important point of the growing process, so common scab was a clear worry. “Hopefully the use of soil mapping has allowed us to use planting technology to respond to the changing soil structure across the field, so hopefully we’ll see some quality come

SPot East 

As Elveden Estates tenure as host of Strategic Potato Farm East comes to a close, Farms Director, Andrew Francis took time to reflect on the three years working alongside the AHDB. 

Industry impact 

Work over the three-year programme saw 62 per cent of visitors to SPot East say that they would make significant or minor 
changes to their on-farm working practices. Trials on water use and irrigation on light soils completed in 2017/18 proved to be very timely for the team at Elveden ahead of this year’s drought.

Results from this year’s trials and a summary of Elveden Estates time as SPot East host will be presented SPot East Results Day on Thursday 10 January 2019.

Andrew said: “The last three years have been a mixture of challenging and rewarding. I don’t think you can underestimate the value of having research carried out on your own back yard, but my team has had to work hard to make the most of the opportunities. “When you have a large team like ours, it’s often difficult to get everyone to external training events, so to have the level of research we have had over the past three years has been invaluable for our own development.
“For the region as a whole I think we’ve been able to move forward and progress together. This is the first time that we’ve had this level of research on light soils, so hopefully we’ve started something that will develop and carry on long after our tenancy”

SPot North 

Disparately, Somerby Top Farm, North Lincolnshire has just completed its first year as host of Strategic Farm North where Farm Manager, Will Gagg has been working alongside Dr Mark Stalham of NIAB CUF and Graham Tomalin, Senior Agronomist at VCS Agronomy on a range of demonstrations designed to improve quality and yield in the area. 

Industry impact 

Work on headlands at SPot North has proven popular with growers over the season. 

Join us at the results day on Wednesday 23 January 2019 January to find out the economic value to growers and the benefits of the additional burn-off trial

Dr Stalham, who has been involved in the SPot farm programme since its inception in 2015, said:

“We began planting under wet conditions at the beginning of May with a focus on a range of demonstrations including nutrition, sulphur, nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

Principally we have been looking at Royal and Maris Piper, concentrating on setting the right requirements for the season to ensure the crop doesn’t suffer from bruising or pathology issues such as black dot.”










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