The UK potato industry met in Harrogate late last year for the Potato Council’s biennial British Potato event. Dominic Kilburn rounds up some of the highlights.
Damage awareness campaign
Left to right: Tong Peal sales manager Nick Woodcock; Potato Council’s Claire Hodge; Standen Engineering’s David Wilson and Grimme’s Barry Baker. The group gathered at BP2013 to launch the Potato Council Damage Awareness campaign which included a new guide entitled ‘Minimising damage’. Speaking at the launch, Claire said that as much as £200/ha can be lost due to crop damage during harvest or on the grader and she stressed how important it was that growers communicated with staff to reduce this risk.
The guide – a collaboration between the manufacturers and the Potato Council – takes the reader through the key stages of potato production, from planning the crop right through to harvest and storage, aiming to highlight settings and operations for minimising damage without compromising field or crop conditions.
Anyone wishing to get a copy of the guide should contact the Potato Council or it can be accessed online on the Potato Council’s website.
The Potato Council launched the sustainable storage initiative ‘Storage 2020’ by announcing a new storage assessment service available from April 2014. Speaking at the launch, Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research head Adrian Cunnington said that a lot of people in the industry were “living on borrowed time” in terms of their storage facilities with a wide level of efficiency being operated between stores. “Stores need to get some investment to increase efficiency and to be able to maximise returns,” he highlighted.
The nationwide service is being made available on an optional basis to anyone involved in storage and will assess store ‘leakage’ by monitoring how quickly pressure dissipates, important in terms of CIPC treatments as well as energy use.
In addition, refrigeration heat exchange systems will be tested while insulation upgrades could save growers up to 10 per cent in energy costs, he noted.
The target is to assess 250 stores in the first year of the initiative and costs will vary from £440-£640 per store, depending on capacity.
According to Adrian, 3.5 million tonnes of potatoes are stored in the UK each year in approximately 2,500 stores.
Better seed treatment application
Team Sprayers was demonstrating its CTC 2 rotary nozzle system with air canopy for applying seed treatment to tubers, on Frontier Agriculture’s stand at BP2013.
Turner Agriculture potato adviser, David Turner was on hand to explain that with more liquid forms of seed treatment coming to market, such as Syngenta’s Maxim 100FS (fludioxonil) treatment for protection against rhizoctonia and reduction of silver scurf and black dot in ware potatoes, a better system was required to apply the material to tubers on-farm compared with traditional spinning disc and hydraulic nozzle systems.
“The idea behind the rotating nozzle is that as the potatoes pass along the roller table underneath the canopy, tubers are covered with material from all angles,” said David. “In addition, fans within the hood blow the chemical towards the tubers,” he added.
According to David, data has shown that the new system increases chemical deposit on to the tubers by 40 per cent compared with conventional methods, as well as enhancing disease control.
He added that the application system also removes the burden from the operator compared with planter-based application systems.
Syngenta’s Maxim 100FS seed treatment for potatoes is only available through Frontier.
Potato adviser David Turner explained the merits of Team Sprayers’ CTC 2 rotary nozzle system with air canopy which was exhibited on Frontier’s stand.
Box tipper launched
Tong Peal’s Revolver box tipper was debuted at British Potato 2013 and is designed to save growers and packhouses both time and money.
Fully adjustable to meet exact user requirements, the Revolver box tipper uses the latest technology to achieve throughput figures of up to 40t/hr. Based on an innovative patent pending design, instead of a traditional pivot tipping action, Tong Peal’s new Revolver box tipper tips boxes with a unique forward rolling motion, to very gently yet fully empty crop.
The design significantly reduces forklift movement, and consequently labour requirements, by allowing a continuous load/unload process. Full boxes are loaded into the bottom of the unit, before being automatically raised into the forward rolling tipping cradle. The lifting mechanism then returns to its original position, allowing another full box to be loaded. This dramatically reduces forklift movement and time, increases throughput potential and helps to meet packhouse health and safety guidelines by keeping full boxes at lower levels, adds the business.
“The Tong Peal Revolver box tipper is a big development in box emptying technology,” commented project manager, Tim Young. “Our design team has worked hard to develop this new and unique circular forward rolling motion, ensuring the system not only minimises drop to guarantee the gentlest crop handling, but also ensures minimal maintenance and labour requirements.
“Replacing traditional forward pivot tipping hydraulics with Tong Peal’s Blue Inverter technology controlled motors, the Revolver box tipper is powered by a single 0.37kW motor for the rocking motion and a 2.2kW motor for the lifting mechanism. This makes the unit even more efficient and effective than standard box tippers, delivering exceptional energy efficiency, particularly when compared with other systems on the market.”
Early blight protection
Amphore Plus, a new dedicated alternaria (early blight) and potato blight spray that effectively tackles the two key foliar blight diseases in one treatment, was launched at the event by Syngenta.
Amphore Plus combines blight control active mandipropamid, with a new Syngenta fungicide active for potatoes, difenoconazole, which has been proven effective on all strains of alternaria, said the company.
Speaking at British Potato 2013, Syngenta’s field technical manager, Stephen Williams said: “Amphore Plus is a simple and cost effective, one-product solution to prevent alternaria and blight. The highly effective results, seen in UK and European trials, offer the chance to keep crops green and clean of disease right through the season.”
He highlighted that it is the only one product solution with top-rated performance for potato blight and effective results on all strains of alternaria.
“Further advantages that it offers include a convenient easy-to-use formulation, with no tank-mix required.
“It also gives them all the confidence of full-dose mandipropamid protection, with added alternaria control,” he added.
Initial trial results indicate that alternaria-focussed fungicides are best applied during canopy complete phase in crops during periods of medium to high risk, but before onset of disease symptoms. Typically that would be from six weeks post-emergence and would usually equate to sprays five, seven and nine in the programme, alternating with a blight specific fungicide, such as Revus (mandipropamid) or Shirlan (fluazinam).
Powder applicator delivers even seed tuber coverage
A new applicator for powder potato seed treatments will help to achieve even coverage of seed tubers during planting, said Techneat Engineering. The Powder Pro can be supplied with a bespoke mounting kit for most leading makes of potato planter, designed to deliver powder at the optimum point on the planter for even seed tuber coverage.
Designed primarily for Monceren seed treatment application, the unit features an even-flow metering unit and positive action powder delivery system. “Even coverage of the seed tuber is essential to get the best possible long-term results from seed treatment,” said Techneat’s Tim Neat. “Fitting the Powder Pro in the appropriate position on the planter’s seed delivery train helps to assure good coverage and minimal loss.”
Fitting options are available for belt and cup planters.
“Furthermore, the automated application avoids operator contact with the chemical. Filling the seed hopper is faster and cleaner when operators are not required to sprinkle-on powder seed treatments, which could prove hazardous in windy conditions,” he added.
The Powder Pro is fully controlled from the operator’s cab, with the option to automatically match applicator output to forward speed using GPS tracking, to assure the consistent application rate onto seed. Operation would be further simplified where the same controller can be used to govern a Techneat Amistar applicator fitted on the planter.
Humidity and heat for new hot box
The new Potato Hot Box from Martin Lishman allows growers to test tubers before they go into storage for disease, infections and bruising by subjecting them to both humidity and heat, said the company. Hot boxing is a reliable way of accelerating the onset of variety problems that can develop gradually in stored crops and can help users exclude tubers that might cause problems in storage or be rejected on quality issues when delivered to customers.
Adding the ability to manage humidity as well as the heat means that growers can create the required test conditions inside half an hour and detect bruising in a sample in less than 12 hours while conditions for diseases can be created to match their incubation period.
“This will enable users to determine the bruising and disease risk their crops face much faster allowing them to make management decisions based on sound information and possibly react more quickly to marketing opportunities,” commented managing director Gavin Lishman.
“Working with their retailer customers, producers could also assess the potential shelf-life of the potatoes and help them select the most logical and profitable order in which to sell their stocks. The principal could also be extended to provide information to retailers on potential shelf-life of any fresh produce, ” he explained.
The Potato Hot Box is made of strong, insulated uPVC and is easy to clean and maintain. It has a control panel for easy setting of time period, temperature level and humidity percentage. The humidifier allows humidity levels to be maintained at an accuracy of between 1-3 per cent throughout the testing period.
Four different models are available for testing between 125-750 tubers.
The ‘One Voice’ campaign has been launched by the Potato Council to encourage the industry to work together to “spread the news” about potatoes. The organisation has devised a simple set of messages to promote the natural goodness of potatoes which are supported by a number of partner organisations, including the NFU, NFUS, Fresh Potato Suppliers’ Association and Potato Processors’ Association.
In launching the One Voice campaign, Potato Council will be calling on industry to use these messages to position potatoes as a good food in the minds of shoppers, children, policy makers and the media, ensuring that they remain a staple on the British plate. Potato Council head of marketing and corporate affairs, Caroline Evans said: “Potato Council continues to invest in positively promoting these messages with levy monies. Working together helps us all deliver more return to support the industry. This has been demonstrated with projects such as Grow Your Own Potatoes, where growers and suppliers were instrumental in reaching the large number of schools involved. Simple support for campaigns and programmes can reap major rewards for the long term.
“Now the One Voice campaign will encourage these organisations to join together to promote the many positive aspects of the crop,” she added.
“Showing support for the One Voice campaign can be done on many levels. It can be as simple as passing on a recipe or displaying a poster or car sticker. Alternatively you could sign up to become a Potato Ambassador, or arrange to meet your local MP. There will be plenty of resources available to help pass the messages on.”
Potato Council’s Caroline Evans pictured with two current Potato Ambassadors; Cornish farmer Reuben Collins (left) and Lancashire grower Robin Cropper (centre).
The Potato Council said that it was once again on the search for new members to join its team of Potato Ambassadors. Since it recruited its first set of Ambassadors back in 2010, they have become central to all of the Potato Council’s marketing campaigns, said the organisation. The ten potato growers, based throughout England, Scotland and Wales, have spoken with local press and radio stations and in some cases they have even featured on national television, in a bid to reinforce the positive messages about potatoes and to build a closer affinity between the industry and consumers.
The Ambassador role is a two year appointment which can be extended if required and new growers would sign up and join the team for the next two years, starting in May 2014 until April 2016.
Tapered store design
Crop Systems’ new TaperStor store design offers operators total control over the stored crop and the environment in which it is kept, combined with the ability to maximise the volume of storage available on any given footprint and so reduce storage costs per tonne.
According to the Norfolk-based company, TaperStor enables operators to load crops to a greater height and – by eliminating tight corners – to achieve more complete fill levels across the whole floor, which optimises the use of space.
Both the central duct and laterals within the store are tapered, which helps maintain even air flow throughout the store.
Fan housing also tapers, which makes loading and unloading the store easier and helps increase fill levels to 6m, so a store effectively holds 3,200t of potatoes on a footprint where a conventional store would have 2,400t.
This means operators can ensure totally even, consistent flow of air throughout the store – ideal for ensuring fogging treatments and chemicals are applied evenly.
“Most stores are loaded over a period of time, and changing weather and ground conditions mean that potatoes come into store at different temperatures, moisture levels and states of cleanliness,” said Crop Systems’ Ray Andrews. “But TaperStor enables operators to manage the air flow throughout the store, so it can be increased where needed to achieve efficient cooling, or where crops need more air so they can be dried.
“We believe it represents a significant step change in store design. It is totally flexible and can safely store any crop – no matter how dirty or wet – in any year.
“The bay walls are constructed entirely in concrete, so there is no wood to rot or deteriorate and ‘short-case’ fans ensure even air distribution is maintained, especially when working at low air speeds.
“Tight corners have been eliminated where possible, which makes it easier to load and unload, which is helping achieve greater fill levels and raise capacity.
“To finish off the store, we have used sealed hatch louvres which eliminate leakage, which can be a problem in stores using standard louvres,” he added.
Technology company launched
Target Set Technology, a new joint venture between Standen Engineering and Target Set was launched at the event to develop and promote new technologies and services to potato growers.
The Target Set Technology Side Ridge Injection (SRI) 6-row machine. Liquid fertiliser and crop nutrition products can be directly injected into the side of potato ridges.
New products set to revolutionise the management of potato crops include tractor mounted Side Ridge Injection (SRI) machines – a system for injecting liquid fertiliser and crop nutrition and pest control products directly into the side of potato ridges at high pressure for maximum effect.
Tests have demonstrated potential for greater control liquid fertiliser applications, increasing yields and reduceing fertiliser costs, and fertiliser can be applied through the season until the leaves touch in the row, added the company.
Target Set (SRI) 2-row machines have been undergoing development and testing in the UK and a new 6-row hydraulic folding machine has also been produced.
Systems can also be fitted to existing potato planters allowing pressure injection of liquid fertiliser and planting in a single pass, replacing fertiliser placement systems.
Natural sprout suppressant
A naturally occurring sprouting inhibitor for potatoes called BIOX-M was exhibited by Juno Plant Protection. A spearmint oil containing the active ingredient L-carvone, the product offers preventative action against new sprouts and leaves little or no residue traces on produce. In addition, potato store temperatures can operate between 8-10°C for the product to remain effective, points out the company. This results in a large reduction in energy costs compared with when other methods of sprout suppressant are employed, suggests the company.
Juno Plant Protection’s Peter Hall (right) and Xeda International’s Michele Sardo.
“Used on its own or in conjunction with other post-harvest treatments, BIOX-M offers growers an opportunity to minimise pesticide residues on stored potatoes,” said Juno’s Peter Hall, who pointed out that sprouts are burned as soon as they show. “There is the additional advantage of a reduction in the incidence of silver scurf,” added Mr Hall.
The standard BIOX-M dosage includes a first application of 90g/t followed by 30g/t every three weeks throughout the storage period.
BIOX-M is applied as a thermal fog to be used exclusively with Xeda/Cedax Electrofog hot fogging equipment.