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Measuring alternative desiccants at SPot South

Wednesday, 28 August 2019

This was the third and final open day at Dillington Farms, AHDB’s Strategic Potato Farm, South. There were more than 60 growers and agronomists in attendance, despite it falling on a dry day during a wet start to August.

Ollie Blackburn, Farm Manager at Dillington, said the trials programme in their final season as hosts had been of interest to local growers because it had covered topical issues that they were all facing.

Presentations and trials updates

  • Storage and sprout suppression
  • Residual herbicide
  • Mechanical desiccation
  • Alternative chemical desiccation
  • European and domestic markets update

Desiccation options

Achieving adequate skin-set is the key part of any desiccation programme, and will be a challenge post-diquat. Our national desiccation trial is considering 4 chemical options (2 that are currently approved for UK use, and 2 that may gain approval in the future) and 5 mechanical methods.

Knowledge Exchange Manager, Bill Watts has also developed a new way of measuring skin-set – that gives a numerical result.

“The traditional way of testing skin-set is putting a large sample through a barrel roller, and then make a judgement based on how they look after that” said Bill.

“Our system will actually give you a number, in newton-meters, for the force needed to break the skin of the tuber.

“We’re using a modified screwdriver that tests torque. There was plenty of interest at the event. Some growers said ‘I know what a set skin looks like, I don’t need that’ – but for us, when we’re running a trial and putting one option against another we can now put a value on it.

“Other growers have been very interested, maybe in the future it will become something that will help them make decisions in the field.”

We are running our national desiccation trial at 7 sites across the UK, including our 5 Strategic Potato Farms. The SPot South Open Day was the first of the open events at the sites, and included:

Desiccation demonstration:

Treatments demonstrated included Gozai® (pyraflufen-ethyl), Spotlight® (carfentrazone-ethyl), a salt-based treatment and pelargonic acid with or without flail treatment,  and in comparison to a standard Reglone® (diquat, Syngenta) desiccation approach in Georgina.

Mechanical desiccation trial:

Fully replicated investigation of haulm and root damaging implements with or without a spray desiccation programme. Investigation in the variety Georgina intended for the pre-pack market. Trial repeated at other sites nationally, in the varieties Gemson, Daisy and Royal for the salad, seed and processing markets respectively.

Results will be available after crop is harvested, via SPot results days and winter meetings.

Sprout control

Getting skin-set right with new desiccation plans will be vital, as growers storage tactics will also be changing.

There was a storage update at the event, which included a look at our recent review of Maleic Hydrazide (MH) as a sprout suppressant. MH is set to become a key part of the store managers armoury, as we reported in this month’s Storage Bulletin.

Residual herbicides

Attendees saw a demonstration of residual herbicide programmes with either shark® (carfentrazone-ethyl), or Reglone® (diquat) contact herbicides at increasingly late application timings (0, 10, 50% post-em) in Georgina and Lanorma. Also, a review of other national work investigating the new residual herbicide Emerger® (aclonifen).

Results will be available at our winter meetings.

Markets update

Aidan Wright from AHDB’s Market Intelligence (MI) team, gave an update on European and domestic markets. Like last season Europe has been hit by a heatwave – however this year it has hit some areas harder than others.

The ongoing drought in parts of Eastern Europe is expected to create large shortfalls in supply. These conditions have created opportunities for British exporters, but these could be limited by a no deal Brexit.