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Strategic Potato Farm East – Two years on

Publication Date: 
15 March 2018
Author/Contact :
Contacts: Jenny Bashford or Graham Bannister

Following a successful second year at the Elveden Estate, the home of Strategic Potato (SPot) Farm East, Andrew Francis, Farm Manager, said: “We became host of SPot farm East in a quest for knowledge, and we continue to learn. 

“We have several challenges that face our business and those similar to ours. The work we carry out here isn’t my trials, they are our trials – done for the industry.”

The AHDB Strategic Potato Farm programme offers a valuable opportunity for growers to be part of a unique research forum, which discusses the organisations projects and outputs to help you get the most out of your levy.

Losing Linuron and beyond

With the loss of linuron, which will be enforced in June this year, growers’ access to effective residual herbicides is becoming increasingly limited. The herbicide demonstration carried out at SPot East 2017 explored alternative residual herbicide strategies. This demonstration researched the performance of 12 alternative residual herbicide combinations compared to a standard ‘linuron based programme’.

Graham Tomalin, Senior Agronomist for VCS Potatoes Ltd, said: “We’ve looked at 23 varieties in total and 12 different residual options applied prior to emergence, with a second trial post emergence of the crop investigating different contact herbicides to help us decide where we will go post-June.

“It is a changing landscape, with control measures at risk - but we are learning more about our new options. Most interestingly, we found that six of the ‘post-linuron’ treatments produced commercially acceptable results”

Water and nitrogen use              

As water becomes an increasingly scarce and costly resource, the SPot Farm East common scab demonstration, run by NIAB CUF, considered the minimum water required by different varieties, to control common scab.

Dr Mark Stalham, Senior Research Associate at NIAB CUF explored different potato varieties and their susceptibility to the common scab pathogen.  

Dr Stalham, said: “Very simply, we are trying to tease out the differences in varieties and their sensitivity to common scab. Past research has found Maris Piper to be the most sensitive variety, while Vales Sovereign is one of the least sensitive, which was confirmed during the trial. However, this trial allowed us to fine-tune what we know about the sensitivity of many varieties previously described as ‘intermediate’, allowing us to improve water management for them

Improving nitrogen recommendations for potatoes

Full title: Improving nitrogen recommendations for potatoes through estimation of determinacy of varieties

AHDB has been investigating its current recommendations of nitrogen (N) use for potatoes in the anticipation of developing new protocol that will help estimate determinacy grouping in a wider range of varieties.

The aim of the research is to generate simple practice and data to define the N determinacy groups of the top 25 varieties (by area), findings from the project will be used to inform the 2020 revision of the nutrient management guides

Current determinacy tables are based on observations, experiences by researcher and breeder agents. This means that new varieties are often allocated on anecdotal evidence resulting in some varieties being over or under-supplied with nitrogen, which causes some varieties to fail to reach their full potential. This may be because they have not been placed in the correct determinacy group or because the correct nitrogen rate is not selected within a determinacy group.


NIAB CUF has led research funded by AHDB, which has been looking in to the relationship between these parameters, and nitrogen determinacy.  Field trials have taken place at NIAB this year to test the candidate metrics on a wider set of varieties. Support from Greenvale, McCain, Cygnet PB, NRM, Omex and CUPGRA has provided historical data e.g. ground cover development, canopy persistence and harvest index in experimental and commercial crops.

Marc Allison, Senior Researcher at NIAB CUF said: “The development of a protocol for the rapid determination of varietal determinacy will result in the more efficient commercialisation of new varieties, the protocol will allow more reliable variety-specific N application to be made and this optimization is likely to increase potato yields and quality.”

RB209 amendments

The AHDB Nutrient Management Guide (RB209) has been amended to provide clarity on key changes made during the summer (2017) with corrections made to a small number of errors.

Dr James Holmes, AHDB Senior Resource Management Scientist, said: “We are not considering this, as a revision of RB209, however, from the outset we envisaged maintaining an up-to date manual and this update is rectifying some errors and providing the detail to some key questions raised since we launched the 9th edition in May 2017.

“The amendment sheet is inclusive of all changes across the seven sections of RB209, therefore you need only one copy, those ordering hard copies via AHDB will automatically receive one, if you pick one up at an event, make sure you have amendment sheet enclosed.”

Benefits of using the digital version over the printed copies include automatic updates and alerts, the ability to save notes and easier navigation.

With quick and easy access to videos, information and recommendations from the guide, it is practical for use in the field and will always be the latest version available – plus it’s lighter to carry and doesn’t need an internet connection once downloaded.

More content:

SPot East Results Day Presentations







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