Potato levy investment in soils R&D announced at leading technical event

Mike Storey
Mike Storey

AHDB Potatoes was once again at the forefront of GB’s largest technical potato field event recently.

Against the background of 2015’s International Year of Soils, AHDB Potatoes’ Dr Rob Clayton spoke at the event to press and industry stakeholders highlighting the continuing importance of soils across the potato, cereals and dairy sectors, and announced for the first time that further levy funding from across AHDB sectors is to be invested into soils research work, beginning with an invitation for tender bids from research organisations this coming September.

Dr Mike Storey, head of R&D at AHDB Potatoes, stated “AHDB sectors work closely together to manage programmes of research with leading science organisations such as the James Hutton Institute and SRUC. It is this high level of collaboration that we are building on for the forthcoming tender.

“Our support for current and future research programmes is part of an integrated soils programme across AHDB and this profile needs to be raised.”

Mike continued, “We should also emphasise how important Scotland is to our industry’s research portfolio. Forty-four per-cent of our committed levy spend for our current potatoes R&D programme is assigned to Scotland.”

AHDB Potatoes invests levy funds in high-level training and support for research students, with nearly fifty per-cent of the PhD students it supports conducting their research out of Scottish science organisations, with the James Hutton Institute leading the way.

Mike also touched on AHDB’s support for on-going nematology research and also how Blackleg poses a continuing threat to our seed (and ware) growers.

AHDB Potatoes and Scottish Government are co-funding a three-year investigation into the causes of Blackleg in order to identify the routes of infection and ultimately help growers to eradicate Blackleg from early-generation seed crops.

This work is being supported by a secondment to enable AHDB Potatoes and Dr Gerry Saddler of SASA to investigate grower management of crops and survey which factors affect Blackleg.

Prof. Ian Toth of the James Hutton Institute highlighted the six major funded projects currently underway on Blackleg and encouraged attendees to meet with project leaders and visit the displays on Blackleg during the event.

Ian advised that “The research on Blackleg is making headway, and there is now clear evidence that seed potatoes pick up Blackleg organisms directly from soils, so we need to find out how we use that science to tackle the challenges that growers face.”

Press and visitors were able to discuss all R&D projects during the event with AHDB Potatoes, SASA, the James Hutton Institute and SRUC on their stands and field plots.

Visitors came from around the country to be at GB’s largest potato technical field event. John Adams-Williams, Director of Greenseed and a member of the NFU Potato and Horticulture Forum, was at PiP for the first time. “We grow seed and salad potatoes around GB, and I’ve come to look at the seed and ware crop situation in Scotland and the varieties on display. I also came to see the harvesting, the machinery demonstrations and to catch up with colleagues from around the country.”

Jim Aitken, Senior Field Manager at Branston in Abernathy stated that PiP is a great ‘shop window’ for the UK industry and it’s important to have a presence at the event.

“PiP is a wonderful opportunity to display new and upcoming varieties popular with growers in Scotland and around GB. Farmers can come and chat informally about machinery, technical equipment and varieties. This is easily the biggest outdoor site in the UK so it’s an essential date in everyone’s calendar. The trade is very well represented at PiP and it’s an opportunity for farmers to meet the ‘movers and shakers’ in the industry. It’s a place where major decisions are made, for example who gets exclusivity on varieties.

Make sure next year’s date for Potatoes in Practice is in your diary: Thursday 11 August 2016. We look forward to seeing you there.