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Challenging summer is hot topic for potato producers

Photograph of visitors in the rain at a field plot during PiP 2011
At the beginning of the season English growers were struggling to establish crops because of the drought then the pendulum swung the opposite way before the whole crop was even planted.

Potato producers who are struggling to cope with one of the most challenging seasons in living memory are counting the days until they get free access to leading practical advice and scientific expertise at the UK’s flagship field event, Potatoes in Practice.

The best professional guidance, technical solutions to pressing problems such as late blight, new variety trials and scientific advances which will drive the future of the industry will all be on hand on Thursday 9 August at the James Hutton Institute’s Balruddery Farm on the outskirts of Dundee.

Practical demonstrations, field trials, plot tours, trade exhibitions and an opportunity to network are all features of the annual event that is attended by more than 700 farmers, scientists, advisers and students from across the UK, Europe and further afield.

Organised jointly by the James Hutton Institute, Potato Council, SAC and agronomy company Agrii, Potatoes in Practice offers unrivalled access to scientific research as well as innovative agronomy techniques and new machinery.

Potato breeder Dr Finlay Dale of the James Hutton Institute confirmed that the 2012 potato growing season had been the most complex he had seen in 33 years, with extremes of both drought and water logging challenging farmers’ skills and patience.

“At the beginning of the season English growers were struggling to establish crops because of the drought then the pendulum swung the opposite way before the whole crop was even planted,” he said. "And now we have waterlogged fields which will have a knock-on effect on diseases, yields, soil structure and, of course, the profit to be made from the crop.”

Robert Burns, Head of Seed Export at the Potato Council, said the event would give growers an excellent chance to find out about the latest Government, Potato Council and industry-supported research.

He added: “There will be key seasonal advice from experts in their field on current crop nutrition, pests and disease issues, as well as the latest products and equipment on the trade stand exhibits and machinery displays.”

Nigel Kerby, managing director of Mylnefield Research Services Ltd, a commercial affiliate of the James Hutton Institute, said a major investment in plant breeding was currently taking place in order to help growers prepare for the twin challenges of climate change and food security.

He said: "Farmers are being asked to grow more food on less land even as they have to face extremes in climate. Plant breeding is translating science into better produce for the benefit of farmers and consumers. Some of the latest work will be showcased at the event."

Potatoes in Practice will be held from 9.30am – 4.30pm on Thursday 9 August 2012 at Balruddery Farm, Dundee DD2 5LJ. Attendance is free and there is no need to pre-register. For more information and directions see the Potatoes in Practice 2012 event page.

More information from: 

Bernardo Rodriguez-Salcedo, Media Manager, Tel: +44 (0)1224 395089 (direct line), +44 (0)344 928 5428 (switchboard) or +44 (0)7791 193918 (mobile).

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The James Hutton Research Institute is the result of the merger in April 2011 of MLURI and SCRI. This merger formed a new powerhouse for research into food, land use, and climate change.