'Maximise uptake and pay attention to timing'


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Specialist says Maleic Hydrazide will help cut spiralling storage costs

THE lengthy residual sprout control achieved with maleic hydrazide has a key role in reducing already astronomical potato storage costs, meaning that growers must make every effort to maximise uptake of the product this summer, paying particular attention to application timing and crop and environmental conditions.


The cost of storage for British potato producers is becoming a big worry, with the price of energy to run stores rocketing this year. This exacerbates the recent hike in storage costs in the wake of the chlorpropham (CIPC) withdrawal, which left a significant hole in the in-store sprout control armoury.


Contact products spearmint oil and orange oil are two of the three remaining options, which both have a short-lived effect of burning back sprout growth, so need to be applied regularly to maintain control.


There are reports that some stores required up to six applications of contact products in 2022, costing about £18 to £27/t depending on product used. With CIPC, control would be achieved with 4-5 applications costing just £4-£5/t.


Ethylene gas, another alternative, is released into stores to suppress sprout growth and users report good results but is not deemed suitable for all markets owing to its impact on fry colour (see our separate feature on page 38 for details of work to minimise discolouration) and works out slightly more expensive than previous CIPC programmes.


Independent storage expert Adrian Cunnington says this makes the case for applying maleic hydrazide – in products like Crown MH and Fazor – more compelling than ever as store managers adjust to life post-CIPC.


“We relied on CIPC for residual control over many years and the only product to provide that now is MH. If DMN comes in, that may provide some longer lasting activity, but it’s not available at present so we must make the best of what we have,” he said.


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The need for further treatment on top of MH will vary greatly, depending on storage duration, variety, storage temperature and quality of store. The 2020 season was a good one for MH uptake, with growers achieving very good results in store through to unloading in spring/summer 2021.


Although conditions for uptake were not as ideal in 2021, Adrian says efficacy has still been positive as the current storage period draws to a close.


In well-managed and efficient ambient stores, he says this has allowed some growers to avoid follow-up treatment until February.

In cold stores, there has been plenty of examples of growers getting through until March or April, then using a short period of ethylene treatment to see crops through to the end of storage.


He says that in situations where essential oils are being used, on average growers can save one or two applications following well-timed application of MH.


“You will inevitably hit a period where tubers naturally want to grow, sprout suppression becomes more difficult and other products need to be applied frequently.


“That’s why it was important to have MH and its residual activity in the mix to delay sprout growth and the need for additional treatment,” said Adrian.


More insights on this topic are provided in the July issue of Potato Review. Click here to subscribe.


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