THE potato industry’s efforts to husband the use of nematicides has been recognised with a major new award.

The Nematicide Stewardship Programme (NSP) has been given a pat on the back by receiving an environmental award at the first ever National Potato Industry Awards, held in Harrogate.

Patrick Mitton, chair of the group, said there has been considerable commitment to the programme by the industry to date and it is fantastic to have this recognised. “For many years, the group has been working to ensure granular nematicides are used correctly and retained for future seasons, and this award recognises the hard work that everyone has put into achieving this,” he said.

Also at BP 2019, a panel of key industry players discussed the importance of nematicide stewardship. Jon Pickup, Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA), reiterated the importance of nematicides to the industry: “Nematicides are a vital tool in any integrated programme to enable growers to achieve acceptable potato yields and quality,” he said.

“Nematode levels are getting worse, especially in Scotland, so it’s vital that we retain as many tools as possible to be able to tackle this damaging pest.”

Mark Taylor, from the FPSA (Fresh Potato Suppliers Association) explained the NSP provided critical due diligence for the industry to operate. “It’s our way of continually demonstrating that we’re taking active measures to show industry stakeholders and consumers that we’re committed to stewardship,” he said at the conference. “Ultimately, the goal is to see that every grower who uses nematicides is following the NSP protocol.”

The NSP Protocol is now a part of the audited Red Tractor Standard for combinable crops, sugar beet, and fresh produce. It was updated in October and the first audits with this in effect will commence in March, 2020.

Measures for growers include:

Growers must be able to demonstrate that they have completed the PA4G qualification, attended a face-to-face nematicide course, or completed the online learning on the ARTIS website

Growers must demonstrate they have had their applicator checked prior to the season start and, on each workday

Growers must be able to demonstrate that their machinery effectively incorporates the granules, including at the row ends.