Thu 13 Apr 2017
A recent survey of 202 British potato farmers, conducted by the Kleffmann Group, reports that 39% of the potato crop is grown on rented land and that 25% of their total arable land area (not just potato land note) is infested with Potato Cyst Nematodes (PCN) in GB. This survey covered 20% of all the total potato area grown.
Roger Pratchett of Independent Business Resource Limited, the UK agent for Kleffmann, says that PCN is one of the most serious pests in potatoes and is not easy to control Growers try to avoid growing potatoes on land that has a significant PCN problem, as these soil pests are difficult and expensive to control.
The grower survey in the UK indicated that 39% of land which grew potatoes nationally was rented land. There was a lot of regional variation to this- For example Scottish potato farmers said that 57% of their potatoes were grown on rented land. Around 40% of all potatoes grown in Scotland are grown for seed and growers are not allowed to grow seed on PCN infested land. There is also a specific need to grow seed potatoes free from pests and diseases so this is an understandably higher figure. Other regions were 44% land was rented in the North West for potatoes, which also grows some seed, 37% in the Eastern region, 34% in the West Midlands and 33% in Yorkshire and Humberside. Just 30% of land was rented out to grow potatoes in the South West and the lowest figure was just 25% in the East Midlands.
The second question asked of potato growers was “What percentage of your total arable land is infested with PCN?” The overall figure was 25% for Great Britain but from a regional perspective the Eastern region and the Northwest both having the highest % at 36% each. The West Midlands claimed that 33% of their total arable area was infested, in the West Midlands 30%, in Yorkshire and Humberside 21% and Scotland just 12% with the South West just 3% infested.
Another area of concern to potato growers is late blight and particularly so as the blight population has changed in recent years to a population dominated by the PINK 6 and the BLUE 13 strains – both these strains have the ability to reproduce at lower temperatures, have a quicker life cycle and produce more spores. In effect they are more aggressive and more virulent. So we asked potato growers “In the light of new and more difficult to control blight strains what changes are you making to your blight programme?” 40% said that they had not made any changes to their programmes. But 15% said they were spraying at closer intervals and 14% were using new fungicides or had changed products. 10% said that it would be up to their agronomist to decide what changes are made. A further 7% said that they would use more products in the tank whilst 6% would be making regular checks. 5% of growers had resistance management in mind. Just 2% said they would use resistant varieties and just 1% said they would spend more money. This was quite a spectrum of answers but 60% said they would be making some changes in their blight practices in order to control these more aggressive strains.