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Focus on the detail for better potatoes

April 2023

Nick Winmill, head of potato research and development for trials specialist and crop advisers Agrii, considers the learnings of the last year

For many potato growers, the 2022 season will be one to forget, but not for those of us with a trials programme to oversee. This may be of scant consolation to those reeling from higher energy and fertiliser costs or those who ran short of water, but good data has a value of its own.

Through the Potato Partnership (TPP), to which I am proud to say Agrii is heavily committed, we have made progress on a range of fronts. Admittedly, the advances have not been as far or as fast as many would like, but the days of leaps and bounds are behind us. Today, the mantra is one of accumulating marginal gains, or in everyday parlance, ‘good attention to detail’.

On potato cyst nematodes, the TPP has made progress towards its objective of improving the yield protection delivered by Velum Prime (fluopyram). On its own it offers 50-60% of the protection offered by Nemathorin (fosthiazate), but in combination, results improve dramatically. We believe there is still more to consider before we can say with confidence how Velum Prime should be used for maximum efficacy, so work will continue this season.

It is clear to those involved in TPP that until we find a reliable means of tackling infestations between crops, the situation will get worse, crop performance will continue to suffer and the cost of addressing the situation will increase.

The story is a similar for wireworm control. A coded product outperformed the Nemathorin control by nearly 25%, but the incidence of damage among inspected tubers was still too great for this product to be considered effective. As with PCN, improving control of wireworm is a complex story. We know even less about the wide range of species that comprise populations than we do with PCN, to make real progress we need to review what we think we know about wireworm and find the resources to fill in the gaps.

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