Topping the list of priorities for potato storage research is evaluation of residue-free treatments aimed at reducing growers’ reliance on CIPC. DAVID MOSSMAN has been finding out about a novel active ingredient which comes from a surprising source.
There is a growing list of alternative sprout suppressants based on plant essential oils, some of which have been granted regulatory approval in recent years and are enjoying a degree of success while others seem to have fallen by the wayside. Carvone (recovered from caraway seeds) is sold in the Netherlands under the brand name Talent while mint oil is marketed here as BioX-M from Juno Plant Protection. Clove oil, which has also been tested in the UK, faces an uncertain future but Arysta LifeScience has been working on a competitor which could be granted registration as early as next year.
This latest ‘natural’ product to undergo trials at AHDB’s Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research in Lincolnshire is extracted mechanically from orange peel. The active ingredient, limonene, is reckoned to hold back dormancy break by burning off developing sprouts.
Arysta’s Don Pendergrast sees real potential for the use of orange oil as a stand-alone treatment though he suspects that potato growers and store managers will be particularly interested in using it in sequence with growth regulator maleic hydrazide (MH) and the widely-used sprout suppressant chlorpropham (CIPC), both of which are part of his company’s existing product portfolio.*
Dutch trials carried out at PPO Lelystad showed promising results on a range of varieties when orange oil was compared with established treatments such as DMN (1,4-dimethylnapthalene), Biox-M and GroStop (CIPC). ‘They have been working on orange oil at PPO for five years and the product is due for registration any time now in the Netherlands,’ Mr Pendergrast explained. ‘We’re a little bit further back here in the UK but we’re hoping to get approval in the early part of 2019.’
Abstraction reform offers a chance to innovate
Much is changing in the world of potato production, from agronomy to the regulatory and business environment and the introduction of new technology. Bayer has commissioned a series of articles focusing on these forces for change. This instalment looks at water use and the introduction of digital licencing.
Abstraction reform has been on the political agenda since Defra published a White Paper on the topic in 2011. The current licencing system was introduced in the 1960s and is widely accepted to be in need of reform. ‘It is literally an analogue system in a digital age,’ explains Paul Hammett, NFU national water resources specialist.
‘It doesn’t consider the pressure that population growth or climate change will exert on the system and it lacks the flexibility needed to allow users to take water in times of plenty or to fully utilise the technological innovations growers are adopting to improve water use efficiency.’
After several public consultations on the issue, Defra announced in 2017 that it would seek to reform abstraction practices through voluntary measures and an extension to the catchment-based approach. This put policy development in the hands of those at the local level – namely the Environment Agency (EA), the Rivers Trust, catchment groups, and abstractors – and means bespoke solutions can be developed for each catchment based on its unique circumstances.
‘This bottom-up approach has been largely welcomed by licensees, especially the acknowledgement from Defra that for it to be successful will require flexibility and innovation in licensing,’ says Mr Hammett.
Fundamental to the success of the new system will be the abolition of paper-based licences in 2019 and the introduction of a modern system of digital licensing. By moving it online the Environment Agency intends to streamline the application process and expand the type of services available, such as applying to trade water or amend an existing licence as well as making it easier to report volumes abstracted.
‘This is something growers are particularly keen on,’ Mr Hammett suggests. ‘There is enthusiasm for a system that enables those who need water to access it either through local trading of permits or shared storage. Part of the solution rests in being able to store more water out-of-season, but to enable this users need help.
‘Reservoirs require capital investment and while grants are available to reduce the cost through measures such as the countryside productivity scheme, they cannot be included in capital allowances. Reforming this area of tax law would be more worthwhile in the long term as it allows investment to reflect changes in enterprise activities.’
Contract topper addresses diquat quandary
A Lincolnshire contractor is offering neighbours a new service to ease workloads during busy times when crops need to be flailed off quickly and efficiently. The combination of unusually dry weather this season and uncertainty over the future of diquat meant that the timing of the launch could hardly have been better.
For many years G. & D. Matthews Ltd were substantial potato growers in their own right but more recently they have been happy to work with a number of local farmers who have suitable land in their rotations but who don’t want to plant potatoes themselves. Over the last few seasons they have also collaborated closely with others further up the supply chain so that risks can be shared more fairly.
David Matthews’ first foray into farm contracting was way back in the 1980s when he and his father ran a potato harvesting business, operating from Leaveslake Drove, West Pinchbeck near Spalding. In 2002, James (the third generation of the Matthews family) joined as technical director. This summer we caught up with them both on nearby Holbeach Marsh to find out about their latest venture.
A crop of second early variety Marfona grown by A. H. Worth & Co Ltd at Manor Farm, Holbeach Hurn, was being defoliated prior to harvest. James was driving the tractor, a shiny new John Deere 6250R equipped with row-crop wheels and a six-row (three-bed) flail system. A two-row front-mounted Baselier haulm topper (Standen) had been teamed up with a pair of trailed units on a folding frame (Scotts Precision Manufacturing Ltd, Fishtoft, Boston), complete with a full set of six ridge press wheels to help reduce tuber greening.
David Matthews is banking on a move towards mechanical haulm destruction, given the uncertainty surrounding the use of the market-leading chemical desiccant. ‘I looked into the future of diquat but I didn’t get a definitive answer as to whether it was going to be available this season or not,’ he explained. ‘The latest information would suggest that it will be banned in the next few months. The other angle this year has been that with such dry weather it has been too dry in a lot of cases to use diquat, unless you had plenty of irrigation.
‘We started flailing last year when we bought the Scotts Trinity system. We already had the Baselier topper and we’re looking to do 1500 acres plus this season,’ he added. ‘The three units are independent of each other which means they follow the contours of the land and the ridge wheels on the back can be very useful in a year like this when cracking and greening is a potential problem. If conditions are wet and ridge consolidation is a problem we have the option of taking those wheels off but nine times out of ten they are a big plus.’