Experts are warning potato growers and buyers not to apply Chlorpropham (CIPC) at 2020 store loading, as they will face a high risk of not being able to sell the crop.
CIPC was previously used on more than 90 per cent of the circa 3.5 million tonnes of potatoes stored in Britain, but its approval for use was withdrawn by the European Commission on 8th January.
A maximum ‘use-up’ period of nine months was set by the EU – meaning the last possible use-up date is the 8th October – but member states can choose their own date within that period. The UK has confirmed its official use-up date as the 8th October, which falls during the very early stages of potato store loading in a typical season.
Dr Mike Storey, chair of the Potato Industry CIPC Stewardship Group (PICSG), warned that some businesses are at risk of crops not passing inspection if they have not been monitoring technical messages.
He explained: “This will become an issue at the point at which the Maximum Residue Level (MRL) of CIPC allowable on potatoes for human consumption, which is currently 10 parts per million (ppm), drops to a new temporary MRL (tMRL). We think this will happen before the 2020 harvest comes out of store.
“We don’t yet know the tMRL rate, although AHDB has been part of a Europe-wide effort to submit data from commercial stores to inform this,” he added. “We know where we hope it will be, and it is at a level that will be achievable if you’re using stores that have previously used CIPC, as long as cleaning guidelines are followed – but if you apply CIPC to crop this year it will not pass an inspection.”
Some countries, including Belgium, have eliminated this risk by bringing the use-up date forward to June.
AHDB’s head of crop storage research Adrian Cunnington said he believes many growers are aware that 2019 was the last harvest that could be treated with CIPC. However, he added that they are still receiving “worrying reports” that some producers are not fully aware of the changes.
“Any grower who applies CIPC in autumn 2020 is at high risk of being unable to sell that crop,” Mr Cunningham added. “Our message is quite simple when it comes to CIPC at 2020 store loading – if you fog them, you can’t flog them.”
AHDB’s online storage hub has information on alternative products and it is also offering free one-to-one potato store visits through its new Storage Network.