GROWING demand for processing potatoes means McCain wants more growers. But it wants top growers, prepared to take advice on cropping practice.
"The market is expanding and expanding rapidly, so we need more producers. But it must be a working relationship where growers take advice on husbandry, particularly for specific varieties," says McCain agronomist Peter Harkett.
Not a prescription
"It is not a prescription; growers know their land best. But we do expect growers to keep to our guidelines fairly closely to get the best produce for french fry production."
That includes variety-specific details on chitting, nutrition, product use and harvest timing. Skin set is a particular concern, being necessary for disease-free storage. "People struggle on this sometimes. The difficulty is that we have no good marker for maturity."
He advocates closer attention to nitrogen rates and more chitting. That would ensure crops matured earlier and could be harvested when temperatures were higher and skin setting quicker.
• Concerns about high levels of blackleg disease in processing variety Shepody are unjustified, claims Mr Harkett. "We control the seed supply to ensure levels are acceptable, by using good production practices."
Peter Harkett advocates closer attention to nitrogen rates.