Pressure to grow for water use cut

Practical solutions for the impact of new regulations on the use of water were part of the British Potato Council-funded research on show at Potatoes in Practice, Scotland.

Irrigation, for example, was likely to be under more pressure as a result of the Water Framework Directive, particularly in dry summers such as this year, SAC researcher Alex Hilton said.

It could mean growers needed alternative strategies to water for beating problems such as common scab.

“We’ve had encouraging results from rapeseed meal.”

The rapeseed meal is broadcast at 1t/ha before planting and then incorporated. Incidence of scab had been cut from 93% in untreated plots to 77%, while severity fell from 8.1% to 2.8% with the rapeseed meal, he said.

“It perhaps wouldn’t be good enough on its own, but used in conjunction with resistant varieties it could make a difference.”

At the other end of the water scale Fraser Milne demonstrated a potential solution for water run-off on sloping fields, an issue under cross-compliance.

“Typically, wheelings are the problem area.

They get compacted, so the water won’t seep in and runs straight off the fields.”

Official DEFRA guidance of ripping through the centre of the wheeling with a tine was not necessarily good advice, he said.

“In a wet year it can cause even more damage to the soil.”

Machinery using the wheelings could be in danger of sinking, he suggested.

Loosening soil at the bottom edge of the ridges in the wheeling would be more effective, he said.

That could be achieved by fitting two spring tines at a 70 angle on the toolbar of a planter.

“You want to get the water off the wheeling and into the useful area – ie in the ridge – where it can be used.”