The Next Generation programme (2015/16) run for the first time by AHDB Potatoes, has been exposing 15 delegates to all aspects of the potato industry. Most recently, the group’s visit to Scotland highlighted what the country has to offer in terms of seed production.
The initiative, launched in 2015 by AHDB Potatoes, gives 15 young potato industry professionals from across the UK exposure to the wider supply chain, with the aim of helping to develop future innovators and leaders in the potato industry.
Participants include potato growers, processors and packers; the only commonality is they all share a passion for potatoes.
The programme includes business and technical sessions, as well as supply chain visits across all parts of the industry.
The group’s next visit will be to Westminster where they will have the opportunity to share their views about the potato sector with three MPs and gain an understanding of how potatoes fit into Great Britain’s food and farming plan.
Due to the success of the programme, AHDB Potatoes are currently accepting applications for the 2016/17 campaign.
For more information visit: potatoes.ahdb.org.uk/next-gen-application
The group began its two-day tour at the Scottish Government’s facilities at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA). Here Next Generation programme participants were able to see first hand the specialist facilities supporting the work SASA does to protect plant health and ensure provision of disease free micro-plants to support production of healthy seed crops.
All Scottish seed potatoes are:
All Scottish seed potatoes are grown on land which:
The group began its two-day tour at the Scottish Government’s facilities at Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture (SASA). Here, Next Generation programme participants were able to see first hand the specialist facilities supporting the work SASA does to protect plant health and ensure provision of disease free micro-plants to support production of healthy seed crops.
John Ellicott, seed potato classification scheme technical manager at SASA, gave an overview of the industry and emphasised the desire to minimise disease in Scottish seed potatoes.
He said: “We specialise in seed potatoes, since the cold climate results in low aphid numbers and therefore low virus transfer.”
To help maintain high seed health standards, imports of seed potatoes from outside the EU are permitted only through quarantine.
“Not many potatoes are brought into Scotland, which helps keep disease levels low. The fact Scottish seed is dickeya-free is a fantastic selling point and increases the value of seed when exporting to countries where dickeya is very problematic,” said Mr Ellicott.
Only seed potatoes classified at community grade can be introduced into Scotland from the rest of the European Union. This provides a safeguard against the introduction of pathogens such as ring rot and brown rot, which have never been found in Scottish potatoes.
To ensure these diseases never accumulate in Scotland, regular tests are undergone on plant material within SASA where all Scottish potatoes originate from. Additionally, frequent in-field inspections of ware and seed potatoes are made.
Mr Ellicott said: “Scotland currently has low incidence of PCN and is free of other quarantine diseases of potatoes. Since the main route by which PCN spread is through the movement of infested tubers, we try not to import potatoes and everything from micro-propagation is rigorously tested before being planted.
“Additionally, we conduct ware checks on 10 per cent of all potatoes and, if we find more than 5 per cent of virus, we can destroy the entire crop.”
Mr Ellicott spoke to the group about the risks posed by possible over-reliance on the Egyptian export market; some 33 percent of potatoes which are exported outside of the EU, go to Egypt.
This caused problems this season after Egypt reduced its tolerance on riddle size from 60mm to 55mm just two months before Scottish growers were due to start exporting.
Mr Ellicott said: “Because of this, some people have lost the ability to export up to 30 per cent of their crop. This has been a big blow.
“Next year shouldn’t be a problem because we will be prepared and farmers will plant for 55mm.”
However, while over-reliance on the Egyptian market was not desirable, Mr Ellicott emphasised the difficulty in finding alternative markets which would import equivalent quantities.