THE MOST widely grown potato in the UK, Maris Piper, came under scrutiny last week at the Potatoes in Practice event, near Dundee.

It has been ‘the’ potato variety in Great Britain for more than 20 years, but growers and processors at the event were asked to consider newer varieties, which are easier to grow and come with just the same or better eating characteristics.

Claire Hodge, knowledge exchange manager at AHDB Potatoes, said: “We have been running our ‘Next Generation’ programme since 2015, where we work with future leaders from the sector and help them to accelerate their knowledge and networks. We wanted to ask those who will be shaping the industry in Great Britain about how they saw the potato competing in a changing global market.”

Since the early 1960s the growth in potato production has rapidly overtaken that of all other food crops in developing countries. It is a fundamental element in the food security for millions of people and potatoes contribute 14% of the vitamin C and 12% of dietary fibre consumed in Great Britain. Despite this, the long-term trend in consumption has been downward.

Claire said: “Our seminar session focussed on our old favourite, Maris Piper, and asked whether it would remain top of the varieties table in 20 years’ time.” Piper has long led the way in term of GB consumption and is well recognised for cooking quality and great flavour.

“But can it hold out against new varieties? Can it withstand changing consumer appetites and evolution in production and processing methods?” asked Claire.

One of the speakers at the session, Dr Kim Davie, ADHB Potatoes nematology fellow at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), said: “I believe the future of the industry is best served using varieties that are resistant to disease and pests more effectively. You can’t look at this in isolation, we’ll still need potatoes that look and taste great, but if we want healthy crops and profitable growers then we must remove the barriers to growing great tasting, resilient tatties.”