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Storage could ‘make or break’ crop quality

The challenging weather experienced this summer has affected potato yield and quality, but there is still much to be gained through monitoring and close attention to detail as crops go into store.

The challenging weather experienced this summer has affected potato yield and quality, but there is still much to be gained through monitoring and close attention to detail as crops go into store.

Adrian Briddon, Senior Scientist at AHDB Sutton Bridge, explains that this storage season could potentially be ‘make or break’ in terms of maintaining crop quality. 

“Even with long dormant varieties we’ve seen symptoms in the field of early dormancy break compared to average years, because of warm season.

“It’s a season where there’s a lot to be gained and lost, and therefore we must get the crop into store as soon as possible,” he says. 

Nick Badger, Potato Product Manager at Certis, adds that following the challenging conditions of the summer, protecting crop quality throughout storage will be even more important. 

“Many experienced growers and agronomists have stated, ‘they have never seen a season like it’,” he says.
“Tuber sprouting, chain tuberisation and haulm secondary growth have unfortunately been common place this season.” 

Nick adds that where soil, crop and conditions permitted, maleic hydrazide product has been used to try to combat the challenges.

“Those that used the new liquid formulation from Certis, Crown MH (maleic hydrazide), on process and prepack crops benefitted from greater control of tuber sprouting and secondary growth. Combined with these benefits, maleic hydrazide is the foundation for subsequent sprout control programmes in store,” he explains.

Although the future of CIPC remains uncertain, with around half of all stored potatoes in the UK treated with CIPC annually , it’s a vital tool for maintaining quality of process and prepack potatoes in store, he explains. 

“To manage this season’s increased risk of sprouting, irrespective of maleic hydrazide use, CIPC should be applied as soon as the crop is in a suitable condition for application,” he adds.  

“This should be carried out within three weeks of harvest, on to a crop that’s dry, free from soil, and with a cured set skin, in accordance with the ‘Be CIPC Compliant’ best practice guidelines.”

Tuber quality

The stress of this season could also have an impact on next year’s seed, explains Nick.
“Tuber quality is only going to decline once in store, so we need to ensure that the crop is in the best condition on loading.

“The current conditions mean that tubers can be more susceptible to bruising and mechanical damage, increasing potential entry points for pathogens, such as gangrene, fusarium dry rot, silver scurf and skin spot.  

“Attention to detail during store loading is crucial to reduce any potential sources of disease,” he says.
“For seed crops, treating tubers with a broad-spectrum fungicide such as Gavel can also help to protect the crop from disease, as can ensuring stores are cool and well ventilated.

“Once in storage, monitor crops regularly for signs of disease and remove any deteriorating crops out of the store.”