Spring is here and clients in Cheshire have been planting over the last two weeks. On a visit last week I found soil temperatures at tuber depth up to 7C at 8 am. Soil conditions were very good, much better than I had expected.
My biggest concerns for the coming season revolve around the cost of production. The tightening of margins is likely to result in extra scrutiny of all inputs and my worry is that corners could be cut.
Two of the biggest issues, I feel, are the use of nematicides and farm saved seed, and although the full impact of the EU PCN Directive may not be realised for a short while, reducing the dose of nematicide and increasing use of farm saved seed, especially a seed fraction taken from a ware crop, is likely to make the problem worse in future years.
When taking a PCN sample, always ask for speciation to be carried out – How can populations be managed with resistant varieties, assuming that a suitable variety is available in the first place, if you don’t know what the species of PCN is?
The PCL PCN model is well worth a look as it allows you to put in different scenarios and you can see the likely results. So far this spring I have seen an increase in farm saved seed, mostly controlled varieties where certified seed prices are high, not always reflected in the price the seed grower gets either!
The most important things to get right in potato production are cultivations and seed quality, but there are other things to consider. Soil nutrient analysis should include ph, P, K and Mg as a minimum, and farm yard manure applications should be taken into account
PCN sampling should include at least 100 cores per 4ha and if eggs found a nematicide should be applied at full dose. Soil from PCN sampling can be used to test for free living nematodes.