AHDB’s Strategic Potato Farm network is carrying out a variety of trials to ensure growers have effective alternatives for banned chemicals such as diquat and CIPC.
The trials currently being undertaken on the network of five farms – based in Perthshire, West Suffolk, Shropshire, Somerset and North Lincolnshire – are supported by research funded by AHDB, ensuring the results are both robust and commercially viable.
Senior knowledge exchange manager Claire Hodge explains: “We are very aware of the challenges that the continual loss of chemistry poses. The industry has lost both diquat for burndown, and CIPC for storage, in quick succession, and this trend is likely to continue.
“Our strategic farms are ideally placed to help growers find alternatives as they can trial different practices in a commercial environment and make sure the results are swiftly shared with growers.”
In terms of the loss of diquat, which is a real concern for producers across the country, a number of strategic farms are looking at potential alternatives. There are currently replicated trials on both alternative chemical and mechanical methods which are being run in conjunction with similar work at the James Hutton Institute. These aim to highlight which methods will be most cost-effective for growers in the future.
Two strategic farms – West and North – are trying to find to solutions to the loss of CIPC for potato storage. Both sites are trialing different varieties to see which are less prone to sprouting while still being commercially viable, and they are also testing the effectiveness of maleic hydrazide as an alternative chemical treatment.
Other on farm research includes trap crops (other crops planted nearby which are more attractive to pests), the use of air sprayers (which use less water and should allow a more precise and effective application of fungicide) and chemical alternatives to the herbicide linuron.
All of the current work is supported by a range of AHDB-funded research activities including our SCEPTREplus project which aims to identify sustainable plant protection products, Blightwatch and our PhD studentships.
“Without the initial research we couldn’t come up with the practical recommendations and on farm trials which make a genuine difference to potato growers,” Claire explains. “We want to continue to support growers as the industry evolves, and we believe the strategic farm network is the ideal forum to do so.”