Grampian Growers technical update


09 July 2019
Grampian Growers technical update

GRAMPIAN Growers, a farmer-owned cooperative based on the East Coast of Scotland which processes and markets 18,000 tonnes of seed potatoes annually, held its 2019 technical update for growers, customers, packers and processors.

Professor Gerry Saddler, Chief Plant Health Officer for Scotland and Head of SASA spoke about the implications of Brexit on the seed potato trade, outlining plant breeder rights, marketing (EU Common Catalogue) and plant health. In a no deal scenario, existing EU plant breeders’ rights will be recognised by the EU27 and the UK, while for new varieties, a dual application process will be required. Where marketing is concerned, varieties must be on the UK National List and 418 varieties have been added to UK national list from the EU Common Catalogue. Defra is seeking an equivalence agreement with the EU, but this will not be considered until withdrawal negotiations have concluded. He stated negotiations may take at least 12 months. Dual application will be required to register varieties on the EU common catalogue and UK national list.

For exports in the same no deal scenario, Gerry indicated Scotland currently exports 13.5% of its marketed tonnage in seed potatoes to the EU. EU legislation prohibits the importation of seed from third countries (excluding Switzerland). England, Wales and NI will allow EU seed imports for a one-year period (effectively covering two growing seasons (2019 and 2020) however, Scotland will not follow suit as it has a long-established industry-led voluntary ban, which means that little if any non-Scottish seed is grown. He stated that an equivalent agreement with the EU will not be considered until withdrawal negotiations are concluded.

One point of interest was that all wood packaging materials (WPM; pallets, boxes) moving between the UK and the EU must meet ISPM15 international standards by undergoing heat treatment and carry the appropriate marking in a no-deal scenario.

Gerry said the Scottish Government will seek to maintain the following post-Brexit: Membership of the custom union and common market or an outcome as close to that as possible; a tariff and regulatory- free trade with the EU; freedom of movement in terms of access to labour. However, Gerry stressed that the Scottish Government is concerned that in the event of a no-deal, there could be possible loss of exports to the EU which would have a knock-on effect on the home market as well as a possible loss of access to Freight Transport Association agreements between EU and third countries and possible increase in imports due to future FTAs.

He concluded that the importance of the Scottish seed potato production must be recognised to Scotland’s rural economy as well as maintaining and building upon its reputation as a seed producer.


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Digital soil mapping discussion

Professor Lorna Dawson, Head of Forensic Soil Science, James Hutton Institute Programme Advisor, SEFARI, spoke about soil data and digital soil mapping. She said data is publicly available via Scotland’s Environment and the UK Soil Observatory web portals and the information is used to support SG policy interaction with EU on CAP Greening regulation.

Lorna said risk maps for sustainable soil management have been developed, which show inherent risk to soils and the environment whilst targeted land management practices can mitigate impacts. She mentioned tools and apps available to growers such as Soil Information for Scottish Soils (SIFSS) and Buntata.

Discussing plant breeding, she said new traits we should be breeding for are cultivars with tolerance to drought, new pest and disease threats and earlier tuberising. JHI has taken new approaches through Genomic tools, genetic analysis, genetic modification, gene editing (CRISPR), hybrid/diploid breeding and genomic selection. JHI launched a new blight risk model called the Hutton Criteria which replaces the Smith Period. This creates a map of risk and alerts growers of high infection outbreaks making it more accurate to location. Since 2017 it has amassed 17,000 subscribers.

Douglas Elder, product manager at Intelligent Growth Solutions, highlighted the challenges growers face in terms of controlling light and heat. The organisation’s future ambitions include greater collaboration with James Hutton Institute and an advanced plant growth centre.


Storage and refrigeration focus

Dr Stuart Wale from SAC focused on storage and refrigeration. He said warmer autumns and spring temperatures will challenge long term storage and stressed that refrigeration was crucial if storing for more than three months, while growers should be looking at storage as an investment that will return dividends. Those with a fridge should switch it on as early as possible and not rely on outside air in October/November. He said Velum prime, the new nematicide from Bayer, will help reduce multiplication on PCN in field especially where one or two blocks have failed and the rest of field has passed. It was noted from growers that Maxim had worked well on tubers and most noticed a difference in treated and untreated. For black dot, it’s not a major issue, however for late maturing seed and salad crops, there can be a risk. Amistar is applied in furrow usually and that has been a critical component of control. Recent SAC trial work suggested foliar Amistar sprays can reduce black dot but more evidence is needed. A new strain of late blight has also been confirmed in Scotland, which is resistant to Fluazinam. 37_A2 turned up in SAC blight trials, even though a fluazinam co-formulation (with a very robust anti-resistance partner) was only applied at very low levels.