Potato Council recommends blight vigilance

The Potato Council is warning growers not to drop their guard, following only two confirmed blight outbreaks this year, but to be extra vigilant.

Most main crops have reached full canopy and it is time to look lower down for signs of blight, especially on watered crops, said the council.

"Don't assume there's nothing about," said technical executive Gary Collins. "The current warm, dry conditions should kill off spores that fall on the outer leaves but blight can still develop lower down. The combination of warm days and irrigation creates problem areas under the canopy."

Last year blight pressure started to pick up from the beginning of July, said Collins. If conditions turn cooler and more humid this could happen again.

Scottish Agricultural College agronomist John Sarup said: "Things are looking good so far. Apart from a few patchy periods early in June it's been a low-pressure month."

Sarup has been able to use cheaper products such as Curzate M, Shirlan and Tanos. He aims to use seven-day spray intervals.

This would enable him to combat the more aggressive blight and adjust product choice, rather than treatment intervals.

"Under higher-risk conditions, the top three Euroblight rated products - Infinito, Ranman and Revus - offer best value for money," Sarup said.

East Anglia's Vegetable Consultancy Services' potato agronomist Graham Tomalin said: "Low-risk conditions so far have largely allowed use of Curzate or Shirlan + cymoxanil mixe.

"Currently we only need to slot in Infinito, Ranman or Revus every second or third spray."

But if blight pressure increases he will switch to alternated two-spray blocks on longerand shorter-duration crops.

In the west of the UK, Agrovista agronomist Rob Hughes had committed to seven-day intervals as the norm but five days in more blight-favourable conditions.

Most of his crops in Shropshire were irrigated, making them high risk, but with un-irrigated crops there was more scope to be flexible.

- The EU has awarded extra funding to promote potatoes following an application by the UK, France and Belgium. Potato Council levy payers will benefit from an additional EUR0.81m over three years. The UK campaign starts with a potato day in October.

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