Growers gathered this week in North Yorkshire where Potato Council-funded cultivation and nematicide trials were on show.
Matt Smallwood and John Sarup of SAC Consulting have been working together with Yorkshire grower Andrew Wilson to produce replicated field trials on Wilson’s farm on the Castle Howard estate, where there is a long history of potato growing.
The trials examined a range of primary and secondary cultivation options using commercially available machinery, alongside trials examining nematicide and in-furrow application of fungicides.
Wilson, a grower for the Colton group, whose family has farmed on the estate for decades, worked with Smallwood and Sarup to produce the replicated trials which attracted so much interest at Slingsby Bank this week.
Wilson said: “There’s always a better way of doing things. After one particularly successful experiment where I combined two machinery parts to apply soil treatments, I was able to increase the effectiveness of my nematicide application by a further two weeks.
“With these products costing around £400 per hectare, you’ve got to look at new ways to keep your costs down without sacrificing productivity.”
Smallwood guided the growers around the cultivation plots to examine primary, secondary and bed preparation trials, and the impact that different machinery and methodology have on compaction, the subsequent root systems, and whether ploughing deeper or shallower gives the most effective outcome.
Several growers asked about optimum cultivation depth to which Smallwood responded: “There is no one-size-fits-all solution. Try one pass in the field, then do a dig and assess the results before you commit to your cultivation for that season, or for that particular field.
“Cultivating deep where soil is plastic at depth can result in more damage being caused to soil structure. Centimetres can make a difference.”
Leading supply chain growers, and event supporters Cockerills met with many of the local supply chain growers at the event.
Managing director Martin Cockerill said: “It’s good to see levy invested in field trials researching the issues that growers need more information on. Seeing outcomes first-hand from funded R&D work allows growers to take back the latest research findings, apply it and see improved results.”
Dr Mark Stalham, soils and irrigation expert at NIAB-CUF, joined the grower group examining the cultivation plots and said: “While deeper roots may not be strictly necessary for maintaining yield in irrigated situations, in the UK they are the buffer for water uptake during drought periods, coming into their own when crops are stressed on hot days.”