Shropshire potato grower joins AHDB Farm Excellence Platform

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Shropshire-based Heal Farms has become the latest addition to AHDB’s Strategic Potato (SPot) Farm family.

The arable and poultry farm estate, which grows around 500 hectares of potatoes each year, will become the new home of SPot Farm West.

It will host a series of farm walks and open days, the first of which will be held on 6 June. There will also be a results day at the end of the year.

AHDB Strategic Farms harness the proven benefits of ‘farmer to farmer’ learning to accelerate the uptake of knowledge. They provide a platform for farmers to explore the potential for new technology and best practice to have an impact on their business, giving them the confidence to implement new ideas on their own farms.

Anne Stone, Knowledge Exchange Manager for AHDB Potatoes, who leads the SPot Farm West project, said: “Each farm has its own environment and challenges, so it is exciting to have an opportunity to see how effective the latest technology is when applied on Heal Farms’ Shropshire soils.”

Farms Director at Heal Farms, Matthew Wallace, said: “As a business, we are interested in improving productivity and the SPot Farm programme provides us with an opportunity to do that. As well as working alongside researchers and experts, it will be interesting to hear about the approach taken by other growers in the West at the open days and farm walks.”

PCN control demonstrations

There will be six technical demonstrations at the SPot Farm, all related to potato cyst nematode (PCN) control. PCN is the most important potato pest in Britain and has the potential to cause substantial yield losses. There will be a range of complementary measures demonstrated at Heal Farms, including resistant varieties, trap crops, biofumigation and nematicide regimes.

Speaking of a previous SPot farm event, Andy Goulding, Cheshire-based agronomist with Hutchinsons/CAS, said: “This event has been really insightful. More growers should come along so they can challenge the research themselves but there’s certainly things I can take away from this and put in to practice for the benefit of my grower clients.”

Around 100 farms are part of AHDB’s wider Farm Excellence Platform, which inspires industry to improve performance and succeed through farmer to farmer knowledge exchange. The programme includes the development of Strategic Farms and Monitor Farms across six agricultural sectors.

One of the host farmers from AHDB’s previous SPot Farm West, W B Daw and Sons, Sam Daw said of his time as a SPot farmer: “The experience was challenging, but ultimately rewarding. We had the opportunity to try new methods, using our own standard technology and with the support of expert scientists. We had two successful years.”

AHDB aims to inspire our farmers and growers to succeed in a rapidly changing world. One of our strategic priorities is accelerate innovation and productivity growth through coordinated research and knowledge exchange.

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