The seeds of change

Potato Review finds out some of the work SPO has been carrying out to target aphid infection, raise the profile of roguing and investigate new markets.

THE Seed Potato Organisation (SPO) has its sights firmly trained on aphids currently as temperatures are beginning to rise in the UK.

Chairman Mike Wilson said: “The warmer temperatures give us more aphids thus a higher likelihood of virus spreading into our very clean, virus-free, crops. The continent has had to deal with issues for decades now but slowly, with global warming, this problem is heading north. The SPO are investing in various tasks to try and combat this growing problem.”

The organisation teamed up with SAC for a virus summit in December, where Dr Stuart Whale suggested future action points to reduce levels of virus in the country.

It is also advocating the use of a mineral oil that, if applied frequently, helps prevent aphid infection in seed crops. While approved for use in the EU, it is not currently permitted for use in the UK. SPO has applied for the emergency use on seed crops, pointing out the environmental benefits this would have by reducing pesticide usage. This application has been submitted to the Chemicals Regulation Division (CRD) and the SPO is now waiting to see if it has been successful.

The SPO is also investigating the use of colouring food dye to be sprayed on when the potatoes are just emerging.

“Trials have been conducted on carrots by Agrivista with excellent results with a big reduction on virus transmission and it is hoped, along with Scottish Agronomy, that trials in potatoes will be as equally successful,” said Mike.

“The theory is that the potato plants are camouflaged, making it near impossible for the aphid to find them. Food colouring dye is very safe and, once again, will hopefully reduce the amounts of aphicides used on the crop.”

SPO is contributing to the Fight Against Blight scheme run by the James Hutton institute, which is monitoring blight samples all over Europe, looking at different strains and any resistance issues

Better engagement

SPO, an independent co-operative representing the entire potato seed chain in the UK, is on a mission to encourage better engagement between SASA (formerly the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency), a division of the Scottish Government Agriculture and Rural Delivery Directorate, and growers.
“This has been greatly improved over the last months and hopefully with more interaction will continue to do so,” said Mike.

It is also keen to demonstrate this it is on the lookout for new markets. It has recently exhibited at Fruit Logistica, the international fruit and vegetable show, as well as the British Potato event and Potatoes In Practice.

“Our presence there was important to let the world know that we are focused on looking for new markets and we’ve had lots of interests from lots of countries so will hopefully have some more markets to supply going forward.”

Anyone interested in joining the Seed Potato Organisation (SPO), or sharing information with the co-operative is encouraged to contact Chairman Mike Wilson on 07808 066 673.
The organisation was in December 2022 following the demise of AHDB Potatoes to represent the seed sector of the potato industry and support its development. It aims to help fund research and innovations as well as seek out new markets.

Turning the tide on potato virus
Tattie roguers and the draw of Scotland’s potato fields
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British Potato Review
Potato Review reports on new developments in all areas of crop production, storage, handling and packing, as well as scientific, technological and machinery innovations in the UK and overseas. We also keep readers abreast of consumer trends and legislation changes impacting on the industry.
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