22 May 1998

Innovative kit includes electronic spud mark 2

Potatoes – few crops would

appear to demand such

inputs of technology,

machinery and marketing

expertise. The Potato

Technology 98 event held at

Sutton Bridge last week

offered plenty of advice on

all three. Andy Collings

reports.

THERE is no denying a certain optimism among potato growers. At first sight this would appear ironic following a season which has done little more than offer poor planting conditions and one of the earliest blight periods in recent times.

It is, however, an optimism born on resulting market shortages – shortages that historically have forced prices into the jackpot zone.

Time will clearly tell. In the meantime, suggestions that 1998 could be the year to clean up has meant more than a passing interest in new machinery – both by growers and manufacturers alike.

Such was the case at Potato Technology 98, where the might of the potato industry assembled with its latest offerings of machinery and no mean amount of advice from consultants, seed houses and chemical companies.

With a theme stated by event organiser, the British Potato Council, as "driving defects down" – a malady which currently costs the industry some £40m – most exhibitors were keen to demonstrate that such problems did not arise from their camp.

Even so, for those with a suspicion that current handling systems are not all that they might be, there was a new toy to play with – at least an updated toy.

It was nearly 10 years ago when the electronic potato first arrived.

Now there is an updated version which takes advantage of the advances made in electronics and, at £975, the PTR 200 is significantly cheaper.

New features include adjust-able sensitivity to reflect the susceptibility to bruising of different varieties, a higher operating frequency to extend working range, and a date and time programmed handset against which data can be logged for later retrieval, either on its own screen or down loaded onto a PC. Battery life is claimed to be three years and the "potato" emits a homing signal so that it can be located more easily.

Electronic potato – mark 2. A greater sensitivity is claimed for the PTR 200 from Martin Lishman.