Bruising in potatoes can be very costly to growers and a new Potato Council campaign aims to help save the industry £26.8m in lost income by raising awareness and offering practical advice.
The Damage Awareness Campaign, being launched at the BP2013 event in November, will focus on optimising machinery and potato-handling equipment in order to help reduce the impacts of tuber damage caused during maincrop lifting.
Jointly sponsored by Branston and Grimme, BP2013 takes place 27-28 November at the Yorkshire Event Centre, Harrogate.
Held once every two years, the event sees the whole GB supply-chain come together with technical seminars and trade stands. Click here for more details.
“Damaged crops cost the UK potato industry over £200/ha,” says Potato Council technical executive Claire Hodge.
The Potato Council has been working with the harvester manufacturers Grimme, Standen-Pearson and Tong Peal with the aim of promoting awareness and providing guidelines ahead of the next cropping season.
A key starting point is regular monitoring to highlight any problems early on. This involves sampling at different points along the lifting process and hot boxing. Hot boxing is a widely used method where potatoes are kept overnight at an elevated temperature and humidity, speeding up the appearance of symptoms.
“Planning ahead is important, as well as prioritising fields in terms of highest potential to bruise at lifting especially as late season climatic conditions may become adverse and temperatures plummet,” she says.
With dry conditions throughout the spring and summer months, there were concerns initially this season as to how tubers would fare. states independent agronomist John Sarup. “If there is adequate soil moisture at burn down, the crop will be less likely to bruise.”
The dry conditions had forced some growers to irrigate crops prior to lifting, but recent rain has eased pressure.
He adds: “Keeping as much soil on the harvester will be crucial as this acts as a cushion, minimising drops into trailers and boxes and thus help reduce the incidence of tuber bruising.”