Spud Special: CIPC timing crucial

Most seed crops have been harvested and stored away in excellent condition with little or no soil in boxes which should make grading much easier this year. Yields are somewhat variable, as a rule of thumb the nearer the East Coast you get the drier it has been and as a consequence, yields are no better than average.

A few miles inland in areas that picked up some reasonable rainfall in August yields are exceptional, with a number of clients having run out of space and finding they need to be creative with bales of straw and plastic drainage pipes. Given the condition of the crop I think this is fine for the short term, but I would make sure that a nice fluffy layer of straw is spread over the top to minimise the effects of condensation events.

Seed quality is very good with hardly a soft rot to be seen, even in crops which developed blackleg. The dry weather minimised the spread and the same goes for powdery scab. However, common scab is widespread and will affect the final marketable yield of susceptible varieties, which will need more attention at grading to keep the seed inspectors happy.

Ware harvest continues, with recent rainfall helping to maintain soil on harvester webs and to keep bruising to a minimum. I just hope that we don’t get too much rain, although generally soil conditions are very good now. Cooler air temperatures are also helping as the crops go into store. A couple of weeks ago tuber temperatures where over 16C, which presented quite a challenge, particularly in ambient stores and with varieties that tend to break dormancy early.

Getting the timing right of that first application of CIPC (chlorpropham) in to the crop is crucial. All the evidence suggests that as soon as the crop is dry it is ready for treatment, even if the crop has been treated with maleic hydrazide do not wait for obvious signs of dormancy break, as you will be too late to get the best effect.

Over the last month or two I have encouraged a number of my clients to use the excellent services provided by members of Sutton Bridge to visit stores and review how best to get the most out of them in terms of ventilation and CIPC application, without the huge investment required to build a new store.

Nearly every grower they visited has changed something, which just goes to show that because you have always done it in a certain way, doesn’t mean that you can’t do it better. On a recent visit to Lancashire I went to see a brand new state of the art bulk store, it was truly impressive and just goes to show what can be done if reinvestment can be made. It is stores like this which will ultimately add value to crops, knowing that wastage will be kept to a minimum and giving the grower far more control.

Finally, now is the time to get soil samples done, if you haven’t already, to enable planning for next year to take place. The more information you have the easier it is to make decisions. Is the basic routine soil sample of pH, P, K, Mg enough? Or should you be looking at other elements and their interactions with each other? Is a potato cyst nematode (PCN) cyst and egg count enough or should you be speciating? How many cores are taken to make up a sample and is it enough to build up a true picture? Is a free living nematode (FLN) count required, is tobacco rattle virus (TRV) Spraing a risk? What does it all mean? Helping clients with all this information and interpretation of results, amongst other things, keeps me busy over the coming winter months.

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