31 October 1997

Spuds on song with fertiliser yield

booster

POTATO yields have been boosted by a new fertiliser additive in trials across the country.

FTC-1, from Dalgety, is claimed to stimulate root and leaf growth, increasing tuber number and size. The active ingredient is classed as a fertiliser under official regulations.

The compound was first trialled three years ago in Maris Piper grown on medium sandy loam at Longham Hall, Longham, near Dereham in Norfolk. Neil McCleod grows 20ha (50 acres) of Maris Piper and Desiree for processing and the bag trade.

"I was very sceptical at first," recalls Mr McCleod. "But we got a 3t/acre yield increase from Piper on the treated strip. You could see to a line where it had been applied."

Last season, he used the product on 3.25ha (8 acres) of Piper with a similar result. Yields rose from 61t/ha (25t/acre) to 69t/ha (28t/acre), prompting him to treat 80% of his area this season. Although overall yield fell by a third on lighter, stony soils, treated areas still gave 8.9t/ha (3.6t/acre) more output, he notes.

Tim Papworth manages potato production at L F Papworths farms in Norfolk. The company, based at Lodge Farm, Felmingham, North Walsham, Norfolk, grows 10 varieties for processing and crisping.

In 1996, Mr Papworth tried FTC-1 on 2ha (5 acres) of Saturna, Dell and Estima. It produced yield increases of 0.4-0.8t/ha (1-2t/acre) on the first two varieties, though there was little effect with Estima. "It was very dry in that field, so there was not enough moisture to activate the product," he says.

Mr Papworth is concerned that crisping varieties like Saturna may get too large, so chipping variety Dell was the main target this season. Test digs suggest a yield boost at least as good as the best achieved in 1996. "We shall use more FTC-1 next year, targeted on processing varieties."

Colin Barron, Dalgetys national fertiliser technical manager, reckons similar yield increases were seen in most of the 45 farm trials covering 23 first early, second early and maincrop varieties this season, and in two independent replicated trials.

"In all but two cases yields rose by 1-5t/acre plus. The average increase was 2.94t/acre, or 14%, and tuber numbers rose by 15%."

Moisture is needed at planting to activate the chemical, he explains.

"It works in the first six weeks after planting, stimulating auxin production."

FTC-1 will be available nationally next season, and will cost about £50/ha (£20/acre).

STIMULANT STATISTICS

&#8226 Average yields up by 7.2t/ha.

&#8226 More tubers and larger.

&#8226 Biggest effects on high yielding varieties.

&#8226 Caution where maximum size important (eg crispers).

&#8226 Cost – £50/ha.

Once sceptical, now convinced …Neil McCleod expects a 7.4t/ha yield increase on his Maris Piper.

STIMULANT STATISTICS

&#8226 Average yields up by 7.2t/ha.

&#8226 More tubers and larger.

&#8226 Biggest effects on high yielding varieties.

&#8226 Caution where maximum size important (eg crispers).

&#8226 Cost – £50/ha.