The Seed Potato Organisation (SPO), the UK’s only body representing for representing the seed potato sector, believes that extreme weather is one of the biggest challenges facing growers.

Warming temperatures mean more aphids that spread disease, which has the potential to damage Scotland’s very clean, virus-free crops. The continent has been battling viruses in their potato crops for decades, but warming temperatures mean the issue is heading north.

The SPO represents a third of all the seed potato acres in Scotland and has been busy raising funds from its members and using this to support a number of initiatives and projects. They backed the SRUC’s virus summit in December to help cover some of the costs.

They are also investigating the use of food colouring on newly emerged potato plants in a bid to confuse aphids. Trials have already been conducted on carrots by Agrivista with excellent results, showing a significant reduction in virus transmission. Scottish Agronomy is trialling sprays on newly emerged fields with green food colouring, which makes it hard for aphids to identify individual plants to feed on. The camouflage trials use a food colouring dye that is safe for the environment, and it is hoped that this will reduce the amount of insecticides needed on crops.

The Scottish Farmer: Chair of the Seed Potato Organisation Mike WilsonChair of the Seed Potato Organisation Mike Wilson

Other disease projects backed by SPO include the James Hutton Institute’s monitoring of blight across Europe. This work investigates the different strains of blight across the continent and flags up any disease resistance. The SPO is also investing in the SAC potato roguing course to encourage more people to get involved, as well as supporting the Scottish stand at Fruit Logistica, which is the largest fruit and vegetable show in the world.

READ MORE | Looking ahead to this year's potato growing season

SPO chair Mike Wilson said: “Our presence there was important to let the world know that we are focused on looking for new markets, and with lots of interest from many countries, including EU countries that we cannot currently supply. We will hopefully have some more markets to supply going forward once all the paperwork has been completed.”

Beyond this, Mr Wilson explains the SPO has been engaging with encourage SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture) to engage with growers better, which he says has been greatly improved over the last months. The SPO also attends the two main seed events, James Hutton’s Potatoes in Practice and the British Potato event in Harrogate. Anyone looking to find out more or join email,