UK: Potato event showcases latest industry developments

The Potatoes in Practice event held near Dundee, Scotland, showcased the latest industry breakthroughs in breeding, pest and disease control, storage and marketing. Journalists for FG Insight visited the event to provide an overview of these industry developments.

Correct depth key to nematicide success
Care over depth of Vydate (oxamyl) granule application when planting potatoes is key to maximising efficacy of the nematicide and meeting stewardship requirements.
Demonstrated at Potatoes in Practice, the ScanStone bed mixer mounted with a three-hopper Horstine Microband applicator, enables efficient delivery and incorporation of Vydate granules, explained Craig Chisholm, Dupont regional technical manager.
“It is only delivered where required and incorporated immediately. There is an electronic clutch so all stewardship requirements can be met.”

Study gives ferric phosphate thumbs up for slug control
A new trial shows ferric phosphate is an effective alternative to metaldehyde for reduction of slug damage to potatoes, with timing crucial to maximise molluscicide efficacy.

Dr Andy Evans, researcher at SRUC, who conducted the trial, said: “Metaldehyde is a very good product but it turns up in drinking water catchments. When methiocarb was withdrawn, the natural inclination was to switch to metaldehyde.”

But two trials conducted last year, one in England and one in Scotland, showed ferric phosphate to control slugs as well as metaldehyde, said Dr Evans. “I encourage growers to take it up in confidence it will work.”

Genetic solution to storage?
Development of gene markers allowing breeding of potatoes which store better should be possible in the next 5-10 years.

Speaking at a Potatoes in Practice seminar, Dr Mark Taylor, researcher at the James Hutton Institute, said growing resistance to use of sprouting inhibitors such as CIPC meant there was an urgent need to develop potato varieties with better storage characteristics.

He is involved in a project looking at sprouting in potatoes and onions to see whether there are any common features. “We are trying to understand which genes are switched on at dormancy break and which hormones are released. We can test if a gene is important in a trait and turn the gene off or overexpress it.”

Lower cost FLN diagnostics tool launched
A suite of DNA molecular diagnostics for free living nematode (FLN) species that transmit tobacco rattle virus to potato crops was launched commercially at Potatoes in Practice.

Dr Roy Neilson, nematologist at the James Hutton Institute, said: “Globally FLNs cost agriculture in excess of £100bn per annum, in terms of reduced yield, reduced quality and management of the nematodes.

“In the UK, historically PCN has been the focus in the potato industry but as a consequence of the reduced availability of nematicide in recent years FLNs have been brought into sharp focus.”

There are 30-40 species of FLNs, some of which transmit tobacco rattle virus (TRV) with symptoms known as spraing. Levels of TRV infections over 4% can render entire crops unsaleable, both for fresh and processing markets.

Dr Neilson said: “Annually, we see 30% of the samples positive for TRV and so it is important to correctly identify these nematodes. The new method will cost less than the conventional microscopic process as it is quicker, requiring less manual analysis.

“We have spent three years in validation and initially it will be available to the UK potato industry through James Hutton Ltd.”

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