22 August 1997

Quality not yield behind current potato research

By Allan Wright

PRODUCT quality rather than yield is driving new potato research programmes, says Philip Burgess, senior potato specialist at the Scottish Agricultural College.

"Supermarkets and processors are stepping up their demands for quality. That is having an affect on our work all the way from new varieties to the fine-tuning of production, harvesting and storage," he told visitors to the first-ever joint demonstration of trial work being done by the college and the Scottish Crop Research Institute.

"The other big influence on research is the demand from the market for lower levels of chemical inputs, which can range from £200 to £700/ha," said Dr Burgess. "There will be increasing pressure to cut these levels of chemical applications. We are looking for new varieties with disease resistance and we are beginning a large project to rationalise the approach to the treatment of many diseases.

"One example is seed treatment against black scurf. This is often used as an insurance against possible disease and it may make far more sense to treat at planting and only if there is a problem. We need to establish practical thresholds."

&#8226 The Dundee event, and much of the research on show, was sponsored by the British Potato Councils grower levy.