Tag Archives: AHDB Potatoes

Number of potato growers continues to reduce

The latest issue of AHDB Potatoes’ Market Intelligence Reportshows that the number of professional potato growers in the UK is continuing to fall.

The report shows that after two years of increasing area, the large harvest in excess of 6 million tonnes and resulting low prices in 2017/18 led to a fall in planted area to 117,300 ha.

‘The fall in planted area has been paired with a long-term rationalisation in the number of registered growers,’ says AHDB. ‘This season, the number of registered growers fell to 1,751 – a reduction of 715 growers since 2000. Meanwhile, the average area per grower has been steadily rising during this period.

‘Consolidation within the industry has led to a minority of growers planting an increasing proportion of the GB potato crop. In 2018, 17% of registered growers planted 100 ha or more of potatoes. This compares with just 5 per cent of growers in 2003. Meanwhile, the number of smaller scale growers has declined, with only 830 registered growers planting between 3 and 29 ha in 2018, compared with 2,249 in 2003.’

According to AHDB, economies of scale are the main factor behind fewer smaller growers and continued consolidation at the larger end of the industry.

Photo Credit: AHDB potatoes

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UK potato harvesting described as ‘patchy’

The maincrop potato harvest is now well underway, although a mixture of very dry conditions and torrential rains are adding to what was already a ‘patchy’ and difficult situation for the crop.

One grower, Ben Sykes from North Yorkshire told Farmers Guardian that by 8 October they had harvested around 20 per cent of their 220 ha crop, compared with 40-50 per cent in an average year.

“They were planted a lot later because of a wet spring and it has been a stressful growing season with the heat. We’ve had to wait a long time for them to mature and now we are harvesting dangerously late,” he said.

Earlier this year AHDB Potatoes’ planting survey recorded a 3 per cent drop in area, making it the third lowest planting figure on record, while overall the North-western European Potato Growers (NEPG) association estimates crop yields in the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany and the UK will be 8 per cent below the five-year average at around 30-40 t/ha depending on irrigation and water availability.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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Social media help potato sales

AHDB Potatoes says that its ‘Bud the Spud’ campaign, and its take-up on social media has led to an increase in the sale of fresh potatoes following years of decline.

Bud was introduced to consumers three years ago as part of an EU co-financed joint campaign with Bord Bia (the Irish food board), with the aim of “emotionally re-engaging consumers with potatoes”, through providing quick-and-easy meal inspiration to fit in with our ever-busier lifestyles, while reminding them of the healthy and nutritious virtues of potatoes.

Another success was AHDB’s ‘More than a Bit on the Side’ where the target audience has continued to increase following each wave of campaign activity. AHDB says that analysis shows that consumer perceptions of potatoes being versatile and healthy were all higher than when the campaign started. Furthermore, findings from all bursts of post-campaign research have shown around 9 in 10 consumers are now considering cooking potatoes either on weekdays or weekends.

AHDB Potatoes added, ‘While retail performance cannot be directly attributed to marketing activity, at the end of the second year of the campaign Kantar WorldPanel figures showed that fresh potato volumes sold are higher than the level predicted, in this way the campaign is viewed as exceeding its target for the first two full years of activity.’

Photo Credit: AHDB

The post Social media help potato sales appeared first on Hort News on 23 May 2018.

AHDB Sutton Bridge launches VarietyCheck service

AHDB’s Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research has announced the launch of a new potato storage service called VarietyCheck for the forthcoming season.

AHDB point out that, “With new regulations on acrylamide and fewer sprout suppressants it is more important than ever to get the right storage conditions for your variety of choice.” The new service will be tailored to crop variety and dormancy, as well as end use.

For example, for processing crops using a variety with long dormancy and the ability to store at lower temperature without sweetening is beneficial. For fresh market packing varieties, maintaining appearance and avoiding blackheart are high priorities.

AHDB says that VarietyCheck will use established methods to objectively assess grower’s new varieties or potato stocks under defined and accurately controlled storage conditions with processing or fresh pack storage options. The service will cost £1,250 (excluding VAT) per variety/stock for the first stock, with discounts available for multiple submissions.

Photo Credit: AHDB Potatoes

The post AHDB Sutton Bridge launches VarietyCheck service appeared first on Hort News on 26 April 2018.

Twin partnerships to address soil health

Soils are fundamental to almost all forms of crop production, so adopting a rotational approach to soil health makes sense. That’s why AHDB has funded a five-year programme of research and knowledge exchange into key aspects of soil health as part of the GREATsoils programme. With the first information gathering reports published, the work is now moving into the next phase – Experiments and on-farm trials designed to answer key questions raised by farmers and growers about how they can practically improve soil health in their own fields. Read more…

New PCN calculator unveiled

Researchers working on a project supported by AHDB Potatoes hope they will be able to improve the accuracy of a calculator on the AHDB website for the Globodera pallida species of potato cyst nematode.

The current PCN pallida calculator replaces an earlier CD-based version, and is designed to be updated with new information as it becomes available. Based on feedback, AHDB claims the web version is more user friendly, allowing for greater flexibility to move around the various input tabs and so demonstrate ‘what if’ scenarios.

Senior Research Assistant Bill Watts at Harper Adams University is hoping that the 20 month project will provide new data sets to help the calculator keep up with the latest findings on PCN biology, shifting varietal trends and new management practices.

“The varieties under investigation include Estima, Lady Rosetta, Marfona, Maris Piper, Markies, Melody, Nectar, Pentland Dell, Royal and Taurus,” he said. “They represent the ten most widely grown varieties in the UK today and are compared to two control varieties; Maris Peer which is intolerant to PCN, and Cara which is tolerant of PCN. Much emphasis has been placed on investigating resistant varieties; however, information on varietal tolerance to PCN is also important to potato growers.”

The next set of tolerance experiments will be carried out this spring, although AHDB stress that the model, “Is not a decision support system as it does not offer advice on what you should do. Instead it is an educational tool, or a decision justifier.”

Photo Caption: PCN cysts on infected potato roots.

Photo Credit: USDA

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North-west European potato harvest estimate rises

The North-Western European Potato Growers (NEPG) group has increased its estimate for the region’s potato harvest from its earlier figure published in September. NEPG now estimates the total harvest for the five countries represented (the UK, France, Germany, Belgium and the Netherlands) at 28.9 million tonnes.

Although final yields in the UK are not yet available, and some 10-15 per cent of the Dutch acreage is still to be harvested because of wet weather, NEPG estimates the total crop is 17.7 per cent higher than last year and 15.6 per cent higher than the five-year average. With yield per hectare up in all countries apart from the UK, where the figure is still unknown, the total yield is slightly above that recorded in 2014, which was the largest figure on record.

However, while overall yields are up, variability is high, particularly in France and Belgium. Overall crop quality is described as good, but losses are expected to be above normal levels and some questions remain about the storability of crops harvested in wet conditions. Dry matters are also low in many instances, with many crops of Bintje and Fontane in the Benelux countries being below the specified minimum levels for starch processing.

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

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European potato production predicted to increase this year

AHDB Potatoes reports that, ‘The first potato area estimate from the North-Western European Potato Growers (NEPG) region suggests a possible increase of 3.6% compared with last season.’

According to the report, the increase would have been even larger, but was curtailed due to the restricted availability of certified seed resulting from lower crop yields last year. Most of the increase in planting has been driven by continued demand from the European processing industry.

‘It is important to note is that the GB proportion of the 2017 area estimate is based on an historical average. The NEPG area estimate is therefore likely to change as more information becomes available,’ added AHDB Potatoes. In order to foresee potential production possibilities for the NEPG region, AHDB has calculated different scenarios based on the 572,000 ha estimate. These range from 25.19 million tonnes based on historic low yields of 44 t/ha, to 29.83 million tonnes based on historic highs.

AHDB analysis suggests that if the current area estimate is realised, production is likely to increase across the NEPG area, even if the yields achieved are similar to the lows of 2012, which was an usually low yielding year. Conditions will determine final planting figures, although many countries are reported to have had ‘ideal’ conditions and made good starts.

Photo Caption: Graph showing historic and predicted planting areas

Photo Credit: AHDB & NEPG

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New AHDB board members

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) has appointed five new members to its specialist sector boards, including Dr Louise Sutherland who joins the Horticulture Sector Board and Reuben Collins for the Potato Sector Board.

All the new members were recruited through open competition with selection made on merit. All five members began a three-year term in office effective from 1 April 2016. Tom Hind, Chief Strategy Officer of AHDB, commented, “These new members have a wealth of experience in their relevant sectors as well as a passion for the industry that is crucial to these roles. We look forward to them making a valuable contribution to the organisation.”

Dr Louise Sutherland brings more than 25 years of experience in the fresh produce and soft fruit sectors including stints at Marks and Spencer, and a PhD in plant pathology. She is also Chair of the Red Tractor Fresh Produce Scheme and a member of the Assured Food Standards Board. She currently chairs the Raspberry Breeding Consortium which is part funded by AHDB Horticulture.

Reuben Collins is a farmer in a family farming partnership which rears beef and grows potatoes and cereals in Cornwall. After studying agriculture at Duchy College, Reuben worked in the Eastern counties with potatoes, onions and cereals followed by farming early potatoes in Cornwall.

Photo Credit: AHDB

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Poor conditions inhibiting potato crop growth

According to AHDB Potatoes unseasonably cold and wet conditions are hampering the early development of potato crops across the UK, as well as holding up planting for remaining fields.

The board’s Potato Weekly newsletter reported on Friday that, ‘A mix of dry and wet days, including some snow showers, was not ideal for planting yet growers were able to progress in many areas. Night temperatures have been low with some frosts.’

Although some growers in Lincolnshire and the West Midlands had finished planting and some crops were just starting to emerge, many others were still behind and frosts had caused concern, leading to some Cornish growers to keep their covers on for longer than normal. In Scotland planting conditions were described as ‘good but cold’ with some growing conditions for early planted crops said to be ‘very poor.’

Photo Credit: Richard Crowhurst

The post Poor conditions inhibiting potato crop growth appeared first on Hort News on 4 May 2016.