Over 50 Welsh potato growers gathered at the County Showground in Pembrokeshire in mid-January to get the latest AHDB knowledge and tools to support their businesses.
More than 1,500 hectares of potatoes are grown inWales each year, said organiser and AHDB technical executive, Hannah Goodwin.Thats why its important AHDB comes to the area and were really grateful that Puffin Produce have again supported this key event.
Kicking off proceedings, AHDB consumer insight analyst, Rebecca Hughes highlighted the opportunities up for grabs if businesses can tap into current consumer trends. We need to deliver to the younger market and meet the demand for more flavourful and convenient foods. The evidence shows that consumers would be prepared to spend more to gain time and get an enhanced taste experience.
Kate Cox, marketing manager for AHDB Potatoes,explained how AHDBs EU-funded marketing campaign Potatoes: More than a bit on the side promotes this agenda. Aimed at 25-44 year old females, the campaign positions potatoes as a relevant and convenient food which is healthy, tasty and versatile.
To support the activity, Miss Cox advised delegates to shout about potatoes, with the key messages being that potatoes are naturally fat free, and a prime source of fibre and potassium. Levy payers can get involved by getting their hands on advertising artwork for use on social media, packaging and vehicles from: potatoes.ahdb.org.uk/one-voice.
Business improvement matters also featured, with Phil Bradshaw (AHDB Potatoes technical executive) showcasing the AHDB Arable Benchmark Model; a key tool to enable growers to understand the profitability of their enterprises and identify areas that could be fine-tuned.
On the introduction of online health and safety training modules produced by AHDB, Bill Quan (Hereford based potato grower andAHDB Potatoes board member) assured, With the growing level of mechanisation in arable enterprises making them high risk environments, the security these resources provide to protect the welfare of the farm team is invaluable.
They are especially helpful with respect to the training needs of seasonal staff, and its great how the system provides certification as evidence of due diligence. We cannot afford to be complacent in health and safety matters.
Offering practical on-farm advice, Dr Bill Parker,AHDBs technical director for crops, discussed the biology and management of wireworm; an inclusion on the days agenda at the specific request of growers in the region.
There is no magic bullet for wireworm, cautioned Dr Parker. Its about planning and attention to detail. Know your enemy, assess the extent of the problem, and then take action.
We need to be thinking ahead more than we are at the moment; at least 12-14 months before planting. Making decisions early will greatly help. However if you are facing wireworm problems in an established crop, the advice is to harvest as early as possible to limit damage.
In an afternoon workshop on cultivation practices,attendees were shown a sneak preview of a new suite of technical summary videos filmed on the Staffordshire Strategic Potato (Spot) Farm and launched on theAHDB Potatoes website this month (potatoes.ahdb.org.uk/video). The footage highlighted fuel savings and faster operating speeds to be gained from cultivating at shallower depths, and the findings engaged lively debate about variable soils types and differing farm situations.
Ged Davies of Natural Resources Wales presented on the possibility for areas of Pembrokeshire to be designated as NitrateVulnerable Zones (NVZ).
We want to reduce pollution from agriculture but feel we can do this whilst equally supporting the prosperity of your business,stated Ged Davies. We continue to work with farmers to help their compliance with The Nitrates Directive.
Any decision to be made will soon be out for public consultation, accessible from the Welsh Government website and delegates were encouraged to engage with the process.
AHDB Potatoes has put on a very useful day, with a good balance of speakers and mixture of topics, concluded Walter Simon, NFU county chairman for Pembrokeshire. The session on wireworm gave food for thought following a challenging season of particularly high pressure. Im also pleased that Natural Resources Wales are here today to update on NVZ designation plans. If there has to be regulation, lets get itright,
AHDB Potatoes will be touring the nation withsimilar updates through its annual Winter Forums. Places at these key events can be booked through: potatoes.ahdb.org.uk/events