Potato yields in the UK appear to be faltering and one expert believes a yield competition like that seen with wheat could help the sector get closer to three-digit yield figures.
Yield data from the AHDB suggest there has been a slowing down in the rate of increase in yields. This is in contrast to the sugar beet sector which is still seeing a strong upward trend, with a 2017 average of 83.4t/ha.
While AHDB figures show the 2018 potato crop averaged 41.7t/ha, NIAB CUF head David Firman points to the huge variation between crops, with some yielding above 80t/ha.
Looking around the world, Washington state in the USA is a standout performer, with an average above 70t/ha.
And triple-digit yields have already been seen in the UK. An irrigation trial in 2013 achieved 125t/ha with the variety Volare, although Dr Firman says that came at the expense of dry matter content.
He believes the more impressive performance was for a 114t/ha crop in a Washington State University variety trial, equating to a dry matter yield of 26t/ha. “It shows that there is an opportunity to increase yields considerably,” he says.
So what are the factors that could be holding back yields?