7 September 2001
On-line window to spud quality

By Charles Abel

POTATO growers can now monitor the quality of their crops on-line as they pass through the packhouse.

This would help them fine-tune on-farm quality control to improve quality and financial returns, said Greenvale AP at the British Potato Event on Tuesday (4 September).

Uniquely available to the companys growers through its website, the service posts full details of crop quality by load every fifteen minutes.

In trials with six growers last year the system brought big benefits, says Bruce Nisbet of Greenvale AP, which sponsored the grading demonstration at the event.

“Previously a delay of just 24 hours in getting the results meant 300-400t of potatoes could have been harvested with the wrong harvester settings.

“With instant access to information, problems can be rectified very early and adjustments made in the field.”

Information is secure, only being accessed via a personal password, and is available 24 hours a day.

But such feedback is no substitute for regular on-farm quality checks throughout the production process, adds Greenvales Paul Coleman.

Growers need to use the thumbnail test for skin maturity, for example to assess the likelihood of skin damage when the harvester goes in, he warns.

The warning sign is if the skin at the rose end of the tuber comes away too easily with a scrape of the thumbnail.

External bruising, which accounts for millions of pounds of wasted crop income, also needs minimising.

Harvester set-up, minimal drops and making sure that the hopper feeding the grader is never fully emptied before the next load can all help, says Mr Coleman.

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