A three-year research project at an East Anglian farm has shown growers a myriad of small improvements which could spark a “quantum leap” in potato production – and taught some broader lessons about communication and knowledge-sharing.
More than 100 farmers, agronomists and suppliers gathered at Rowley Mile Racecourse in Newmarket to hear the results of trials undertaken at the Elveden Estate, near Thetford, as part of the Strategic Potato (SPot) Farm East initiative, co-ordinated by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s potatoes division (AHDB Potatoes).
It marked the culmination of the three-year project which has analysed the effectiveness of various herbicides, nutrients, irrigation regimes and pest control strategies across different potato varieties.
Amid all these countless variables there were important insights into improving crop yield and quality.
But Elveden farms director Andrew Francis said this work could only have the intended benefit to the wider industry if farmers were given the information and confidence to take these ideas back to their own land and see how they work on their own potato varieties and soil conditions.
“I think the fact there are 100 people here looking for answers is a really good indication that people want to improve,” he said. “There is a definite desire to make these changes.
“What we do through this initiative is to identify areas where we would like to improve, but also to use it to show what we currently don’t know. It is about not being insular as an industry. It is about opening that out, opening it up to others, and getting some lateral thinking into it.
“We need to look at things in a different way. How do we effect quantum leaps in a big way, these big step changes, given that we only have one learning opportunity every 12 months?”
But as well as reaching for those quantum changes, Mr Francis said “little simple wins” should not be overlooked.