Talking Roots with Darryl Shailes: Testing agronomic practice


A while ago we discussed potato blight and its influence on the socio-economic development of Ireland and the USA in the 1840s and 50s. There was another significant ‘produce-related’ event in the history of the USA – and that was the Boston Tea Party.


On December 16, 1773, the Sons of Liberty reacted strongly – fed up with the increasing taxes on tea placed on them by the British Parliament. This culminated in them destroying the tea on ships in Boston Harbour after the Royal Governor at the time, Thomas Hutchinson, refused to send the tea back to Britain. Drinking tea was deemed unpatriotic after this event and there was a shift to coffee as the preferred hot drink in the new USA.


The Boston Tea Party was a significant episode in the growth of the American revolutionary movement and the Declaration of Independence, signed on the July 4, 1776, is celebrated every year.


Well this year we’ve another reason to celebrate as Hutchinsons is having an open day at our new Fenland potato trials site on July 4, 2017. I don’t suppose it will be fireworks, family reunions or parades, but we should be able to look at some interesting topics and conclude with a barbecue and refreshments. On the day we’ll be examining a range of topics which we feel are important to potato growing and trying to improve grower’s gross margins – I hope to see you there.


Nutrition is a big topic at the moment. Its effective use will be explored and we’ll be utilising our new Omnia precision farming developments to interrogate the information.


PCN is of course always at the forefront of growers’ production costs. We’ll be looking at a range of new varieties and evaluating their tolerance and resistance to PCN and exploring different methods of integrated management.


Seed is also key for tuber size and yield, so we’ll be looking at planting seed of the same variety, from different geographical sources and chronological age, and monitoring the effect it has on chit development, yield and tuber size distribution. The work done by Cambridge University Farms on chronological age is well established and has been incorporated into the seed rate tables generated by AHDB Potatoes – but is it fully used by most growers?


There are some important dates to have to hand now it’s confirmed about the loss of Linuron for the UK. These dates are:



    • Last sales by any person: June 3, 2017


    • Last use, storage and disposal: June 3, 2018



Weed control will be top of growers’ minds, so we’ll be looking at a range of post-emergence treatments, applied across the same varieties we’ll be working on with PCN evaluation.


There are many different residual herbicides still available to use for the potato grower and we’ve done a lot of trial work over the last few years, across a range of varieties and soil types, looking at many different combinations to cover every situation.


Inigo (metobromuron) from Belchim is the newest and we’ve seen very good results in all our trials since it got approval in 2016. Inigo is extremely safe across all varieties and soil types. In the early development work we did up to eight litres/hectare on an irrigated blowing sand and saw no crop effect at all.


Mixtures with Prosulfocarb on very light soils have been a real bonus in terms of weed control, especially where robust rates of metribuzin are an issue due to soil type or variety. In all the other situations, mixtures with a varying range of actives, matched to the weed burden and soil type, have also delivered excellent results.


There are concerns going forward about diquat, but with carfentrazone-ethyl and pyraflufen-ethyl being available for the pre-em contact slot, I don’t think we should worry too much about weed control for the time being.

Abby Kellett
Posted by Abby Kellett
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