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Smith Period blight alert set to be replaced

New risk criteria set to transform the performance of potato late blight alert systems was revealed at AHDB’s Agronomists’ Conference in Peterborough.



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Smith Period blight alert set to be replaced #clubhectare #potatoes #blight

Now 60 years old, the current methodology for predicting blight pressure, known as the Smith Period, is set to be replaced by an improved alert system expected to be in place before the 2017 blight risk period.

 

Following research undertaken by the James Hutton Institute and funded by AHDB Potatoes, the newly developed ‘Hutton Criteria’ was described as ‘a significant advancement’ over the previous system.

 

John Sarup, agronomist and specialist potato adviser for SPUD Agronomy, said: “Late blight is a concern for potato growers every single year and a tool for identifying high risk periods of disease development is crucial to help us protect our crops and give us the confidence to schedule control activities at the right time, to the right level.

 

See also: Wet weather stretches blight spraying intervals

 

“However, in recent seasons, blight has been found on crops even before any conventional Smith Periods had been recorded, meaning the current tools and systems just weren’t reliable enough to support precision decision-making.”


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Research

AHDB-funded research by PhD student Siobhán Roísín Dancey, at the James Hutton Institute, examined relationships between reported outbreaks and recorded Smith Periods, and conducted experiments to determine new thresholds indicative of high blight risk.

 

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While the current Smith Period’s threshold is marked by two consecutive days where the minimum temperature is above 10degC and the relative humidity above 90 per cent for at least 11 hours, the research suggested that relative humidity only needs to be above 90 per cent for six hours before there is a significant blight risk.

 

Putting the findings to the test against over 2,000 historic reports of potato late blight outbreaks, the Hutton Criteria demonstrated a significant improvement in performance compared to the Smith Period.

 

Speaking at the conference, Ms Dancey said: “Past records revealed that the Smith Period was not performing equally well in all parts of the country, and the Hutton Criteria has eliminated this issue.”

 

 

Old vs new blight alert criteria

 


Current: The Smith Period


New: The Hutton Criteria


Two consecutive days:


    • Each day has a minimum temperature of 10degC
    • Each day has at least 11 hours with relative humidity ≥ 90 per cent



Two consecutive days:


    • Each day has a minimum temperature of 10degC
    • Each day has at least six hours with relative humidity ≥ 90 per cent


Source: AHDB Potatoes

AHDB's Fight Against Blight campaign

AHDB’s Fight Against Blight (FAB) campaign aims to take advantage of the research in 2017 by using the new Hutton Criteria to improve its free alert service for levy payers.

 

Claire Hodge, AHDB Potatoes knowledge exchange manager said: “The FAB tools currently allow levy-payers to register, for free, automatic alerts about local conditions conducive to blight along with actual reported blight outbreaks.”

 

“The plan is to build the Hutton Criteria into these systems, improve the reliability and reach of blight risk reporting, and launch them in time for the 2017 blight pressure season helping to support decisions, refine action plans and re-empower growers against blight.”

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