Seed potato growers attending the conference were urged not to ‘sit on the fence’, or ‘play wait and see’, before they joined the independent grower-led membership body, the Seed Potato Organisation (SPO).

Speaking in support of the organisation, Dr Philip Burgess, of, told the conference that far-sighted growers in the sector had recognised that there was a need for an industry body to ensure that the sector was properly represented in discussions with researchers and policy makers.

Stating that there was a real need for leadership within the sector to face current and upcoming challenges, he said that in the past this role had been largely delegated to the AHDB – but real collaboration was required within the industry to ensure that the new grower membership group became a success.

“The organisation needs your support – so don’t put off and sit on the fence – or we might soon find that we’ve no fence to sit on!” said Dr Burgess.

* In the face of the new blight strain resistant to one of the major forms of chemical control, SRUC potato specialist, Dr Kyran Maloney called on growers to make better use of additional control measures, rather than relying purely on the spray can.

“While it’s an indisputable fact that blight sprays are indispensible to the potato sector, we need to make sure that we use the shrinking armoury of effective chemicals sustainably,” he told the conference.

Highlighting the role which could be played by crop monitoring and the reporting of outbreaks, along with the use of forecasts, he said that at the moment outbreaks were massively under-reported – adding that better intelligence would leads to much improved forecasts of the likely threat to crops from blight.

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*With potato cyst nematode (PCN) representing an existential threat to the growing of seed potatoes in some areas of Scotland, the revelation that tolerant varieties could soon hit the market came as good news for the sector.

“While we have had varieties which were resistant to PCN for some time, they have still suffered yield loss – and have done little to help reduce infection levels in soils,” Dr Burgess told the conference.

“However, it looks like we are on the cusp of a whole wave of new varieties which could offer the potential not only to express their full yield potential in heavily infected soils – but which can also help to reduce the underlying eelworm burden in the soil.

“And the good news is that the supermarkets and retailers seem to be happy with the other qualities of these emerging varieties – and growers should be getting to know the specific agronomy requirements of these new varieties as soon as possible,” he said.