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Storage Bulletin - February 2015

Publication Date: 
27 February 2015

At this time of year, seed will be coming out of store and heading to farms for planting. Most seed will be transported in bulk bags or boxes and it is important that, having incurred expense to get the seed through a winter’s storage, that this doesn’t all come to nought through inadequate management before it gets the opportunity to be put into the ground.
Weather can still play a major part during seed transport and influences how quickly it can be planted. Clearly protection from frost is paramount at all times but if seed is moved to a new location, it is important that it can still be ventilated to prevent condensation which can encourage unwanted sprouting (below) and spread of disease.
Ideally seed should be emptied out of bulk bags for proper storage. If it has to stay in bags, bulk bags with ventilation panels built in are preferable to those without and these should always be stacked on pallets to allow air underneath rather than standing them on a concrete floor. Whatever storage is employed, fan assisted ventilation should be used – even for temporary holding – to make sure there is a good flow of air through the crop to dissipate any accumulated heat from respiration of the seed.
Trial at SBCSR (2014) comparing seed batches held in big bags stored on a concrete floor (unmanged) and raised/ventilated (good mgmt.)
Current reports and on-going trials at SBCSR suggest that there are already signs of senescent sweetening development in some processing varieties, which may impact on fry colour. Varieties like Lady Rosetta and Pentland Dell should already have been marketed; if they haven’t they need to be closely monitored now. It is important to be carrying out routine fry tests and to try to differentiate senescence from any effects of cold temperature. The latter are potentially reversible by raising the storage temperature but senescent sweetening is only made worse. If you suspect the onset of senescence, place a sample in a warm place (15C +) for a week to see if the fry colour worsens as a result. If it does, it is crucial to enter into an early dialogue with your market so that delivery can be optimised to maintain quality.
At SBCSR we are currently working closely with our colleagues to add a new potato storage costs component to the AHDB Arable Benchmarking tool and we plan to have this module available in June. But it prompted us to include a reminder in this bulletin that, if you are storing potatoes, it is always worth looking closely at the efficiency of your storage. Returns can be significantly improved by making the store work more effectively and by controlling costs. 
The key to this is having access to accurate information for your enterprise. Best practice recommendations start with the installation of a dedicated electricity sub-meter on each store. All the experts in energy management concur that simply installing a meter raises awareness of energy use and leads to changes in practice which will very quickly pay for the meter.
Storage efficiency is geared around a few key points:
  • Storing crops for a known market and monitoring quality throughout to make sure the standard for that market can be met.
  • A controlled storage environment not influenced by external factors (leakage, solar heat gain, etc).
  • Even air flow and distribution to achieve uniform temperature control using energy-efficient fans. This is likely to include the use of inverters/VFDs for fan speed control. Consider retro-fitting these or changing your fans if they are more than 10 years old. The cost of fans is small compared with the cost of the electricity they use.
  • Effective heat transfer from the crop to the air (and, if a fridge is involved, to and from the refrigerant).
Our StoreCheck auditing service (see StoreCheck leaflet) is a good way to get to grips with the detail about your store’s efficiency. StoreCheck is available for a flat fee nationwide; call 01406 359414 for more information.
For general advice on store management please contact our Storage Advice Line on 0800 02 82 111.
At this time of year, there is always the prospect of skin spot (Polyscytalum pustulans) developing, especially on later harvested crops. Keep a close eye on your crops in store, especially if you store a skin spot susceptible variety such as Lady Rosetta or King Edward;  look for the characteristic pimple-like lesions that form on the skin (right). The blemish is unsightly for crops destined for pre-packing but is also a threat to both seed and processing crops. The lesions can lead to blindness in seed and, over time, as they increase in depth, can significantly increase peeling losses in processing crops.

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