Farmer Focus: Andrew Charlton fights potato blight

Most conversations with neighbours just now begin: “Andrew, what are you doing about potato blight?” The answer is “Everything”.


Organic growers are permitted up to 6kg/ha of copper each season which I split into four applications.


In last summer’s deluge I also started using Bacillus subtilis, a biological control marketed as Sentry, which I apply with elemental sulphur as a carrier and to add more protection.


Importantly this is combined with growing a reasonably resistant variety, Sante, and early flailing off (usually mid-August). It all means I can be a responsible neighbour and produce a quality sample.


My greatest blight concern is poor management of potato dumps and the very occasional small holder in the area who allows the disease to get a hold to everyone’s cost.


This year I’m pretty happy with the way the potatoes look.


In a perfect world I’d like to find an organically approved product or practice which could accelerate growth at this time of year, simply because the season is so much shorter for me.


All hand-weeding of cereals is completed – thank goodness. It’s the hardest job of the year but has to be done to prevent thistles seeding.


I’ve been really pleased with the way the eastern European students have got stuck into the work. I wish I could say the same of the handful of English people who rocked up.


Watching the recent Glastonbury festival reminds me of how inspirational Michael Eavis is and how festivals have become national cultural institutions.


To my mind the reason is that everyone, even the most ardent townie, has an emotional connection with the countryside. So those who develop those connections fulfil a vital role for our industry.


I should soon be enjoying myself at another festival – probably the last weekend off before November.


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