Wednesday, April 24, 2019

Strategic Farms give growers confidence to manage risks

April 1, 2019 by  
Filed under Crops

Growers are improving risk management by taking part in the AHDB’s Strategic Potato Farm East programme.

More than 100 delegates attended a packed event at Newmarket Racecourse to hear how results from trials and demonstrations carried out at Strategic Potato Farm East have helped growers improve business management and productivity.

Reflecting on three years as the programme’s eastern region host, Elveden Farms director Andrew Francis praised his team – saying trials work carried out on the estate has enabled him to meet challenges in the ever-changing potato industry.

Singling out the most valuable work on farm, Mr Francis highlighted trials looking at Potato Cyst Nematode (PCN) tolerance and resistance in different potato varieties as being of particular value to his business, and the industry as a whole.

“While the work looking at PCN tolerance was particularly useful for us, the Strategic Farm programme has benefited the business in many ways,” he said.

“The responsibility of providing in season data to underpin each year’s demonstrations meant we had to become even better at data recording and communication. As a result, we have been able to adapt some of our key management practices.”

Speaking to delegates at the Newmarket meeting in January, Mr Francis said he would recommend the programme to any potato growers who were considering applying. “The benefits are certainly measurable,” he added.

Important work

Work on PCN was presented to audiences by Graham Tomalin, head of agronomist firm VCS Potatoes. One of several speakers discussing projects from the last few years, Mr Tomalin said it was important to realise the difference between PCN resistance and PCN tolerance.

He also presented findings from a three year demonstration programme looking at a variety of different residual herbicide combinations.

With growers faced with an ever-shrinking toolkit following the revocation of linuron and diquat, Mr Tomalin warned that costs were likely to rise for growers. The best combination of products was the one tailored to the grower’s own weed spectrum, he said.

Nitrogen uptake

Mark Stalham and Marc Allison – both senior research associates at potato agronomy group NIAB CUF – reported on work looking at the application of nitrogen to crops. Driving big yields was a matter of how much nitrogen we can get into the crop and at what rate, said Dr Allison.

AHDB senior knowledge exchange manager Graham Bannister, said: “Elveden Estate has seen an incredible term as Strategic Potato Farm East and we’re exceedingly grateful for Andrew’s engagement with the whole programme.”

AHDB Potatoes has five Strategic Potato Farms spread across Great Britain, part of a network of over 60 farms in AHDB’s Farm Excellence programme. Strategic Farms supply the industry with the confidence to implement new ideas and make business improvements.

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