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AHDB: Extreme storage losses for Britain potato stocks

Staff writer ▼ | March 22, 2016
The UK potato industry cannot continue to stand the storage losses it’s seen this season.
Britain potato
Potato   Around 1.9 million tonnes still being held in store
"We need early adopters of best practice on board,” said Simon Alexander, Norfolk-based potato consultant, calling the industry to action at the annual AHDB Potatoes’ Storage Forum.

In a difficult 2015/2016 storage season, Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board's (AHDB) event, hosted by Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research (SBCSR) at the start of March, brought timely encouragement to address industry concerns.

Elaborating on his personal experience in the Norfolk area, Simon Alexander reported, “It’s hard to say, but the worst losses I have had due to rots could probably add up to 10-15%, with the primary villains being the high temperature and high ambient humidity leading to a protracted drying period.

“The ideal is to have the crops dried within 3 weeks, but we were seeing 4 and even 5 week drying periods at the outset. And the subsequent lack of cool, and most importantly dry, air over the winter months limited our opportunities as store managers to dry out the crops without then hitting dew point.”

“We received pre-Christmas reports from the worst hit stores of crop breakdowns to such an extent that some stores had to be unloaded,” added Adrian Cunnington, head of SBCSR.

“However with AHDB’s stocks survey averages showing around 1.9 million tonnes still being held in store at the end of January, expert store management is still a critical area for attention.

“Dealing with the consequences of the mild, external, over-winter climatic conditions in store is now the reality for many growers.”

Delegates were segmented into small group workshops on rots, directed to enabling store managers to identify and assess threats, keep tuber quality consistent and ultimately reduce waste and losses.

“It was interesting to hear what others recommended in difficult circumstances,” concluded Richard Wilson of R S Cockerill, York.

“Ideas such as utilisation of industrial dehumidifying units and, in some cases, a real commercial advantage of manual over automatic store control to maintain a sound, dry crop.”

Summarising the outcomes of the multiple groups, Cunnington added, “The consensus from the forum workshops was to concentrate effort into ventilating any ‘wet’ areas of the store using all the tools available to limit spread.

“However, established bacterial rots in crops at processing storage temperatures will usually gather momentum over time, so there also needs to be some recognition that storage life is likely to be limited.”