Agri-chemical company BASF has launched a new initiative to help UK growers unlock the potential – and the profits – of their potato crop.
Titled, ‘Perfecting Potatoes Together’, the initiative provides a platform on which the potato industry can come together to share experience, know-how and passion for developing and perfecting healthy potato crops.
“It’s undoubtedly been a tough year with the loss of more active ingredients, the pandemic and more extreme weather events,” said BASF marketing manager for specialities, Matthew Goodson. “The combined effect is a very challenging environment in which to produce a profitable potato crop. We want to work together with growers and other industry experts, to help develop solutions that overcome these challenges. But to make this happen we need the support of growers and we’re asking them to join the community.”
For Hugh Black, a potato grower based on Backboath Farm in Angus, Scotland, these challenges are all too real. Mr Black said: “Climate change is certainly having an impact here. Now, for example, in the second week of April, I should be out planting potatoes but it is too cold. Soil temperatures should be somewhere between 6 and 8C but they are currently 1.5C - 4C and it’s very detrimental to crop establishment.” Despite being nearly 700 miles away, Mike Renouard, business unit manager for The Jersey Royal Company, is witnessing similar changes.
He said: “Climate change affects us most years now. We are seeing much longer spells of continuous weather – either wet or dry. We start planting potatoes mid-winter and the last two have been among the wettest on record. The island is wholly reliant on surface water, so later in the season, big rainfall events hamper the application of crop protection products. We just can’t risk them getting into drinking water supplies.
“Extended dry spells are difficult too. We’ve tiny field sizes and can only irrigate 30 to 40% of our area at any one time. Even that involves laying pipes across roads and other people’s properties.”