Keeping ahead of the competition
British Potato 99 is set to be the worlds largest potato event. We ask the British Potato Council what visitors should expect to see.
LOOKING to drive down your costs of production? Look no further than British Potato 99 for the answers, says event organiser Oliver Statham: "It provides all those involved in potatoes with a fantastic opportunity to update themselves with the very latest technology to cut unit cost of production and improve quality."
"The theme for this years event is Achieving Sustainable Competitive Advantage and the programme of interactive features has been designed to help growers do just that. There are machinery demonstrations, around 200 trade exhibitors, industry seminars and research and development information," he adds.
New this year are research, advisory and commercially entered demonstration plots focusing on practical production issues such as new varieties, seed treatments, use of organic and inorganic fertilisers, varietal susceptibility to disease and BPC reference crops.
Information is geared towards a practical message and how new technology can be adopted on farm. The event will focus on how growers can reduce the amounts of avoidable waste – costing the British potato industry around £30m each year.
Mr Statham points out that there will be out-of-season working machinery demonstrations of land cultivation including deep ridgers, bed formers, bed cultivators, de-stoners and planters. Also planned are alternative haulm destruction methods based on burning rather than chemical dessicants.
A key part of the event will be results from BPC-funded research and development. Research and development director Dr Mike Storey wants R&D to be more accessible to the industry and enable a more rapid response to industry changes.
"The emphasis throughout all the activities is on practical messages that help improve crop values, concentrating on how we can increase the efficiency of the environmentally sustainable production of ware and seed tubers, and how to increase the quality of potatoes and potato products to meet end-user requirements.
"The growing plots are just one example of this, providing immediate access to practical information from independent research by CUF, ADAS, SAC and NIAB," says Dr Storey.
"This year, the British Potato 99 site will form one of five sites for our reference crops programme using popular potato varieties to provide commercial, practical and up-to-date information.
He says: "Investing in near market research and development can potentially lead to a £5/t pay-back for growers through a reduction in avoidable losses.
"Variability, particularly in skin quality for the pre-pack market and the suitability for processing are big concerns, and areas being addressed through new R&D programmes.
"R&D information will be available on the BPC stand along with the exhibiting research centres. We encourage anyone in the industry to visit the stands to discuss their own crop requirements with BPC staff and research contractors," says Dr Storey.
"Our R&D objectives are designed to deliver a healthy return on levy payers investment. So come along and see at first hand how the council is communicating throughout the entire potato supply chain."
The stand will also have more information about Waste Not Want Not- the BPCs wide-ranging initiative designed to help growers reduce production wastage right through to managing scarce resources.
The councils newly-introduced internet website will also be featured, illustrating to growers how important this new communications medium will be in the future and what a wide range of up-to-the minute information can be accessed from this source.
Oliver Statham concludes: "With the latest technology available from most of the UKs research organisations and many of the worlds leading potato companies, the event will attract many overseas visitors. With all this on their doorstep, we hope GB growers, packers, merchants and processors will spare the time to attend the event."