Potato crop quality has declined due to poor storage, says Council

Potato growers must be vigilant and handle stored crops carefully to avoid the risk of rots developing, Potato Council's Sutton Bridge Experimental Unit (SBEU) has warned.

The quality of crops that have already come into store is poorer than last season, the SBEU has found.

SBEU has received reports of high levels of rots, following high levels of rainfall over the summer, and the continued wet weather means that conditions are ideal for any infection to spread as crops are loaded into stores.

Warm, wet conditions are needed for the soft rot bacteria, Pectobacterium, to cause tuber breakdown. Fungal diseases, such as tuber blight, and damage during harvest often allow the bacteria to gain a foothold.

“Monitoring will be crucial – during the critical first few weeks of storage, it is vital that ventilation continues until the crop is completely dry,” Dr Harper advised.

There are also some potentially serious problems, especially in poorly-managed stores, said SBEU’s Glyn Harper.
“The key to keeping crops in good condition will be adequate ventilation, controlled temperature pull-down and close monitoring. You must avoid hot spots and condensation developing. Make sure you stack or load the store carefully to ensure good airflow and ventilate correctly,” advised Dr Harper.
General storage advice includes:

·         Know your crop – assess its quality through digging up samples and hot-boxing samples as the crop comes into store. Further details can be found in the SBEU Storage Bulletin
·         Prioritise your storage – some crop will not be suitable for long-term storage. Once you have assessed what you have, adjust your marketing and out-loading plan accordingly
·         Don’t store what you can’t sell – put extra staff on the grading line to remove soil clods, green and damaged tubers
·         Let it breathe – Good air circulation is vital. Fill stores and stack your boxes correctly ensuring adequate spaces for airflows, duct distribution and correct depth of crop
·         Get it under control – shut stores as soon as you can and pull down temperature to the correct level. Keep checking crop condition throughout the storage season
·         Early sprout control essential – don’t wait for signs of sprouting before making your first application of chlorpropham (CIPC). If its use will be certain, use it early.

The Potato Council’s Storage Advice Line is available free to levy-payers looking for up-to-the-minute, tailored information on 0800 02 82 111.

Visit the SBEU website at www.potato.org.uk/sbeu for more.

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