Potatoes in Practice helps growers build resilience

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The UK’s largest field-based potato event, Potatoes in Practice, took place on 10 August with over 600 potato farmers and representatives from across the sector attending. Held at one of James Hutton Institute’s research farms near Dundee, the Institute hosted the event in collaboration with Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC) and Agrii.

A key date in the industry calendar, this year’s gathering focused on the theme of ‘Using Evidence to Build Resistance for Potato Crop Production’, with information sessions and talks highlighting the importance of evidence-based practices to help potato farmers overcome the challenges they face.

Prominent speakers from across the industry shared their expertise with a series of talks throughout the day, including Patrick Hughes from SAOS, Nick Winmill and Graham Tomlin from Agrii, alongside the newly appointed director of the National Potato Innovation Centre, Ian Toth.

The Potatoes in Practice event also included a comprehensive showcase of the latest innovations and emerging trends together with commercial breeders presenting new varieties of potatoes and agronomists demonstrating the advancements in crop protection. Researchers were in attendance too, to discuss their most recent findings and offer visitors the opportunity to access a wealth of scientific knowledge and expertise.

Speaking about the event, James Hutton’s Professor, Ian Toth, who is also the newly appointed director of the Institute’s National Potato Innovation Centre, said: “This event was a great opportunity to bring people from across the sector together to discuss the challenges and opportunities we’re facing. It highlights even more the need for the National Potato Innovation Centre in order that we increase collaboration between research and industry on a domestic and international scale, work together to address the big issues surrounding potato production and exploit combined expertise. “

Nick Winmill, Technical, Research & Development Manager (Potatoes) from Agrii added: ”For Agrii, Potatoes in Practice serves to support our core function as a research and trials-led advisory service for British agriculture. It provides an excellent opportunity to share the focus of our work with both customers and suppliers while enabling us to demonstrate our commitment to sustaining the sector through collaborative activities such as the Potato Partnership and our desire to equip producers with the tools and understanding needed to ensure their future success “

SAC’s Senior Potato Consultant, Dr Kyron Maloney, highlighted concerns that the industry is at a cross-road with managing aphid-borne potato viruses: “Climate change, insecticide losses and an increasing acreage of ware potatoes are all combining to drive risk ever higher. The IPM (Integrated Pest Management) tools demonstrated at PiP have become a vital part of aphid and virus control for seed growers, but there is a knowledge gap for how to deploy measures effectively and we will work with growers and industry going forward to identify solutions and drive best practice. “

The James Hutton Institute has the largest number of potato researchers in the UK and is one of the world’s largest potato research and breeding centres. Part of its strategy to help address the issues that potato faces in dealing with the climate and nature crises is the setting up of a National Potato Innovation Centre (NPIC). Whilst still at a conceptual stage, the hope is to raise significant funding to establish a base where the science that’s required can be fast-tracked to help with alleviating the practical barriers faced by the industry.

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