18 December 1998

Integration call among seed potato producers

POTATO seed producers must work harder to integrate their production systems with the needs of ware growers who are supplying increasingly diverse and specialised markets, says Simon Bowen, senior agronomist with Anglian Produce.

"We should be aiming to develop a seed production strategy by design and discussion, not by default and dispute," he says. "We need more true integration to get the seed growers on board the supply chain so that the needs of the market can be communicated down the line swiftly and effectively."

Seed production should include manipulation of such physiological factors as tuber maturity and stem numbers, linked to seed planting and harvesting date, to help develop the correct attributes in the crop, he says.

A key weakness amongst seed producers is the lack of ventilation facilities to dry the crop off properly and cold storage to maintain low bacterial levels, he adds.

"The 1998 season was a difficult and, in many cases, a wet seed harvest. It will therefore be more important than ever to look critically at destined ware markets next year – particularly long-term storage – and select seed accordingly. The costs of not meeting specific ware market requirements, through loss of premiums, can be around £100/t – returns few growers can afford to lose."