24 December 2021
2021: A year of trials and triumphs
AS the year draws to a close, we take a look at some of the events and news from the potato industry over the past 12 months, including the losses and triumphs.
With the biannual British Potato show and National Potato Industry Awards taking place side-by-side at the end of the year, providing much to celebrate, 2021 ended on a high.
DECEMBER / JANUARY:
POTATO Agronomist Eric Anderson looked at sustainable farming practices while Dave King shared findings and analysis, having completed field trials of a UK study of biostimulants.
At FERA's potato virus testing webinar, Virologist Dr Adrian Fox answered a number of pressing questions about identifying viruses and enabling actions that could be taken while a range of stakeholders took a collaborative approach approach to aphid and virus control.
Collaboration within the supply chain were also key to an emergency authorisation for sprout suppressant, 1,4-DMN, being approved.
FEBRUARY / MARCH:
WITH planting under way, trial work on soils was in focus.
Losing vydate had been a major blow to growers and manufacturers and different actions were being put forward on PCN control.
Weed control strategies were having to change in Scotland, while aphids and biostimulants were more in focus at this time.
Several events had been held – albeit virtual ones because of the lockdown situation. These included Bayer’s Potato and Vegetable Conference, and Syngenta’s Potato Science Live.
APRIL / MAY:
POTATO Review continued to be a bumper 64-pager, having doubled in size in the past 3 years, introducing a wider cross-section of updates and insights from different sectors of the potato industry.
SPot Farm North trials were announced.
Trade data released by HMRC revealed that potato exports had lagged since the UK's EU exit transition period. Ware exports for both processed and fresh sectors were lower than the previous year's figures, while overall seed exports and ware imports fell substantially from January to February.
Campaigners against the compulsory levy on horticulture to fund the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) have said growers should not still be charged a levy for the 2021/22 financial year.
JUNE / JULY
GROWERS continued to fund AHDB Potatoes but the organisation began to wind down its activities, and announced that the levy would be kept as low as possible. A ministerial decision was awaited to conclusively decide the future of the AHDB’s potato and horticulture activities.
Biostimulant study findings revealed some insights into countering heat stress.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates was revealed to be a grower of potatoes that made McDonald's fries in fields in Washington state that were so vast they could be seen from space.
A consortium made up of researchers and members of the potato industry were tracking the distribution and diversity of dominant late blight clones in potato in Europe.
AUGUST / SEPTEMBER:
ORGANISERS decided the PotatoEurope Innovation Awards 2021 would still go ahead, despite COVID-19 uncertainties, but the show itself would be shelved.
Frustration was rife throughout the potato industry because of lack of clarity regarding which key staff were exempted from the need to isolate when notified by the NHS Track and trace app, while growers were amongst the 100-plus farms who opened their gates in the last weekend of June for LEAF Open Farm Sunday 2021.
A new specialist police unit was set up to target theft of agricultural and construction plant machinery. Online training for the Restrain ethylene application system and equipment has been updated and supply chain concerns were raised as the national shortage of lorry drivers was being felt within the potato industry.
OCTOBER / NOVEMBER
THERE was a mixture of excitement and sadness. As the date for the National Potato Industry Awards and BP2021 approached, news that they were still going ahead after a stream of cancelled events through the year in response to COVID-19 restrictions was a cause for celebration amongst growers and suppliers.
But as many prepared to network and meet old friends and business associates at the events, we were also met with the news that a key industry figure, Hazel Hescott, has passed away after losing a battle against cancer. Hazel’s father had founded the original Potato Review decades earlier and she had become a well-known and loved figure in the many years she spent working on the title.
December also saw the closure of the Sutton Bridge research facility.