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Water: Support and monitoring resources available as heatwave enters another week

6 July 2018

As the hot dry spell continues, it is a good time to revisit the resources we highlighted in June that are available to help you monitor and target your water use.

We updated our Seasonal Water Management for Potatoes guide for 2018, you can download it here.

#Click here to jump to available support and resources

How is the crop coping in your area?

In the past few weeks, we have been on farm around the country. Here are some of the updates we’ve received.

Strategic Farm East: Trials have helped manage water (update provided 28 June)

Andrew Francis, Senior Farms Manager at Elveden Farms Limited said: “The crop we have in sandy soils has moved through the growth stages very quickly. We’re now probably one or two weeks ahead of normal, despite the late start.

“Some canopies are looking wilted, even by lunchtime or mid-afternoon after a morning irrigation. At the moment we’re working on a four day irrigation cycle and applying 15 – 18 mm.

“While tuber numbers look like they might be around average, we can’t be sure what’s happening to the tubers themselves. The worry is that their growth rates are outstripping their nutrition uptake, and there may be some concern over potential problems appearing in store.

“One advantage we’ve had, is after or work through the SPot Farm programme we now know our varieties better. We conducted a trial last year on irrigation and common scab control, and we are able to use the knowledge gained to know which of our varieties can last a day or two longer without an irrigation, and which we need to target more regularly.

“What we really need is rain. Nobody’s systems are set up for a full growing season without rain, and at the minute that’s what we’re heading for. Rain water has that X-factor that the crop loves, it has a lasting benefit. Plus, while we’re not hitting water availability warnings yet, who knows what problems we’re building for next season.”

The work conducted at Elveden last year, by Dr Mark Stalham of NIAB CUF, contributed to AHDB Potatoes new Water Management Guide, which is available to download now.

Strategic Farm Scotland: Join us on Tuesday to discuss the effect of the weather and steps you can take

SPot events are a great opportunity to discuss the current situation and the best steps to deal with it, with your peers - and there is one in Perthshire on Tuesday (10 July). The presentation of our demonstrations has been adapted to ensure they provide best practice advice in hot and dry conditions. Dr Mark Stalham of NIAB CUF will be talking about the potential for nitrogen top-ups, while data will also be available on water loss during irrigation. Register now and make sure you bring your hat and sun cream on the day!

Strategic Farm West: Experience and flexibility key at Heal Farms (update provided 28 June)

AHDB KE Manager, Anne Stone: “Irrigation at Heal Farms is going 24 hours a day. Typically a reel with rain gun will cover one section of the field in the morning, the next in afternoon/evening and a third at night. The speed of the reel and size of outlet can be adjusted to assist the logistics.

“In the 20ha Lodge 2 field where the SPot demonstrations are taking place, the operator has just completed the first irrigation at one end of the field and started again at the other end. This operator has been working for Heal Farms for 40 years, so understands well the effects of the different soils in different fields.

“On this farm the processing varieties grown rarely suffer from common scab, so the main reason for irrigation is to keep the plants alive and protect yield as far as possible.”

Blight sprays and aphids:

At Heal Farms fungicide spraying is taking place 3am-10am, to avoid spraying in the hottest part of the day when there could be scorch.

While aphid numbers are also very high in these weather conditions, AHDB Potatoes Knowledge Exchange Manager for Scotland Claire Hodge said: “It is definitely worth monitoring the aphid situation, I am getting lots of alerts through AHDB’s aphid monitoring service. The good news, however, is that virus pressure is low.”

Available resources

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