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Strategic Potato Farm (SPot) – round up

Publication Date: 
2 September 2015

Strategic Potato Farm (SPot) – round up

The all-new Strategic Potato Farm has the last farm walk of this growing season, 11 September, 2015. Hannah Goodwin and visitors review this year’s demonstrations.

 

“Our 20 hectare SPot farm demonstration field is approaching burn off. We’re nearing the end of the first of the three year programme here at WB Daw and Son,” says Hannah.

This work in conjunction with NIAB-CUF has only been possible by kind permission of host farmer and passionate processing grower, James Daw.

During the year, Hannah has been blogging (strategicpotatofarm.blogspot.co.uk) about ground preparations, planting progress, crop development as well as the outcomes of supply-chain visits, field walks and the July open day which attracted over 150 levy-payers.

Visitors have been able to see the findings of independent and rigorous trials being put into commercial practice

“We’ve had over 3,400 views on the blog and the interest in the farm from all corners of the industry,” adds Hannah. “All the research findings on display are from AHDB Potatoes funded research showing the value from the levy.

“This year the focus at the site has been on soil management practices; crop nutrient planning; seed rates and varieties; the use of precision; practices to limit in-field greening; irrigation scheduling and managing crop variability and water run-off,” says Hannah.

“As James would concur, the field brought its challenges at planting,” said Hannah. “The soil type is a sandy clay loam with considerable variation and moderate stone content. Hence its name, Gravelly Bank, but that is reality.

“In 2016, a new field in the rotation will bring a fresh set of challenges and topics to demonstrate,” enthuses Hannah. “The hunt is also now on for SPot farm 2, a second demonstration site to be initiated in the East for 2016 plantings.”

The last morning farm walk takes place 11 September (Register here: potatoes.ahdb.org.uk/events/spot-farm-september-farm-walk)

“At BP2015 (www.bp2015.co.uk) in Harrogate, 12 and 13 November  we are  unveiling a suite of technical videos and accompanying take home summary documents of the demonstrations,” adds Hannah “ Come and find me on the AHDB Potatoes stand.  These will bring together the key findings from the extensive trials and research work, and observations from this season in Staffordshire.”

Hannah’s blog highlights on:

Work relating to preventing run-off, irrigation scheduling , varietal development and precision techniques: http://strategicpotatofarm.blogspot.co.uk/2015/07/open-day-highlights.html

Optimising seed rates, highlights from our in-field greening and variability work as well as cultivation strategies and nutrition visit: http://strategicpotatofarm.blogspot.co.uk/2015/08/open-day-highlights-part-2.html

A levy payer’s view of the demonstrations:

Alex Godfrey – farmer north Lincolnshire

“I’ve heard about the AHDB research at various conferences but nothing replaces seeing it on the ground.”

“I’m going to take lessons away and look to put some into practice at home hopefully.”

“It’s absolutely vital as a potato grower to stay up to date, if you don’t you’ll go out of business.

“There are fewer potato growers year-by-year and it’s the ones that are at the forefront and that are the most advanced who are still going to be growing in 10-15 years’ time.”   

“The SPot farm is great because you get to see what everyone else is doing well. It allows you to keep pace where you might not be and catch up.”

“One lesson that I’m going to take away is the cultivation depths at destoning. It’s something I heard about but seeing it here has helped me focus on it.”

Andrew Wilson – farmer North Yorkshire

“It’s nice to mix with people who are passionate about potatoes and who deal with things in a practical way to learn about how we can improve our business back home.”

“You’ve got to get out the farm gate sometimes and go and see other people that face similar challenges but in different areas to yourself.”

“There’s always things to be learnt from on soil structure, greening issues, and seed spacing. With contract specifications getting tighter we need to learn how we can improve, hit our targets and get the optimum saleable yield.”

“Water is a massive subject, possibly becoming a finite resource. We need to learn how to manage it better and more effectively. Particularly cost effectively, that’s where the thinking gets a bit deeper.”

 

Mark Rennie – farmer, East Lothian

 

 “It’s great to see some of the AHDB Potatoes trial work on-farm. It’s been a key day to come down from Scotland.

“It’s always a good chance to speak to other farmers and see what everyone’s doing. Especially coming down here as we’re quite a long way from home

“Some of the precision farming techniques for potatoes is really interesting and seeing how seed spacing is being adjusted depending by soil type. I think that will get a lot bigger in the future.

“The demonstrations on soil compaction and the planting trials that increase efficiency for fuel and for time at different working depths has been good to see.”

 

 

 

Michael Bubb – farmer Newport, Shropshire

“I’m always interested in new fresh scientific approaches in a practical format and we’ve achieve this at the SPot farm.”

“It’s all very applicable to my home situation. The soil type here is not dissimilar to what we have a home. It’s good to see the scientists in action, rather than on a stage in the middle of winter.  

“It costs a lot of money to grow a crop of potatoes and to reinvent the wheel by making mistakes that you should avoid is very important.

“Potatoes is a fascinating subject that we can all get a bit addicted to

“I’ve been coming to these events for 40 years now, it is noticeable that we have less growers in the industry and it’s almost like a club now. A lot of people are here from the trade too and it’s been a good way to spend the morning.”   

 

David Nelson – Field director, Branston Ltd

“I appreciate the work that’s gone in to provide so many exhibitions and I’m particularly grateful to the farmer James Daw who’s allowed these trials and demonstration plots to be placed on his land.

“Today, we’ve seen how to reduce erosion and how to measure and manage the water in the soil much better. Seeing the cultivation work in field pits and the irrigation modelling, can only be done outside.

“It’s essential we stay up-to-date. We all need to improve the quality of the crop, managing the soils better, means we can be more efficient, we can use less energy in cultivation which means we can get more of the crop planted at the right time.

“Everything has been explained in layman’s terms and I’ve found useful things to take home.”

 

Simon Day – Farm Manager, South Lincs

“There’s always something new to look at and something to learn and it’s been useful to keep up-to-speed with the latest industry developments.

“Potato growers are becoming less and less. There’s more pressure on costs, what crops are worth, and trying to get the most out of growing the crop with the land we’ve got. So any improvement we can make has got to be taken, for industry to stay profitable.

“It’s been good to look at the yield mapping, this has been one of the highlights of the day and seeing how this can relate to what we do at home.

“We’ve been mapping wheat off the combine for years. To do it with potatoes could fit into the cropping cycle well. This could build up a good picture of the fields and where in the field producing the yield and also areas we need to address.”

 

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