24 October 1997

Seed survey aims to sort out agenda

A COMPREHENSIVE review of strengths and weaknesses in the British seed potato industry will guide future work on research and development, marketing and promotion, and information gathering and dissemination.

A postal survey of growers will support a study of the whole trade being undertaken by Diana Rees on behalf of the Seed Sectoral Group of the British Potato Council.

"The results of this survey will guide the priorities we will set at our meeting in November," said seed group chairman Jim Cruickshank. "The work that was done by the Scottish Seed Potato Development Council and the Potato Marketing Board will be studied, we will have the views of everyone in the trade, and we will have a picture of strengths and weaknesses.

Strong base

"That will give us a strong base on which to take decisions on the future work of the group within an overall aim of providing a service which will benefit the industry and provide value for money," said Mr Cruickshank who grows 120ha of seed potatoes in Aberdeenshire and is a member of the main BPC board.

"A healthy seed industry provides a solid foundation for the whole potato industry and the importance of developing a comprehensive seed strategy cannot be underestimated.

"There will not be a separate budget for the work of the seed group. That might have been divisive. But there will be a fair allocation of funds for the sector from the overall council budget of between £5 and £6m."

He sees communication as a key to future success and is planning to follow up the seed sector survey with a round of producer meetings. "These will be for everyone in the industry and will build on the success we had in the past two years in Scotland with meetings organised by the PMB," said Mr Cruickshank.

Farming since 1977

He has been farming in Aberdeenshire since 1977 and seed potatoes have always been the main enterprise. Pre-basic seed is grown from clones and mini tubers on virgin land and stored in isolation in refrigerated units on one of the farms.

Subsequent crops are grown on rented land which, where possible, has no history of potato cropping. Output of up to 30 varieties is stored on the home farm of Westerton of Folla near Inverurie. There are six separate storage areas three of which have refrigeration units.

Mr Cruickshank is one of four people involved in a propagation unit in the area. It will supply most of the starter material in future, enabling a single multiplication system to be adopted for all material being grown at Westerton. In the past, customers dictated the origin of mini tuber material.

Jim Cruickshank – high hopes for the seed sector throughout GB.