An AHDB Seed Potatoes Event 2016 workshop report
To date, storage has been pretty straightforward for SPL. Often individual producers have stored small quantities in well ventilated sheds at sea level in tonne boxes at ambient temperatures and, touch wood, it has been fine. However, alongside our plans to increase production in Wales comes an increased demand for storage. And since we will be bringing all of our product together in one place, the consequences of something going wrong in the store room will suddenly be that much greater. Maybe we need to up our game a bit? With this in mind, this session, led by Adrian Cunnington of Sutton Bridge was an important one for me.
Much of workshop was focused on large (in fact huge!) scale storage systems, involving a lot of very clever and very expensive kit. These facilities are way beyond those which would be appropriate for SPL, however successful we become. But if the workshop didn’t give me all the right answers, it made me ask all the right questions, which is of course every bit as important.
As with all crops, ood storage starts in the field, and with a high degree of resistance to a number of diseases, I think just by growing Sarpo varieties we are off to a good start. Harvesting in good conditions is, of course essential. Large volumes of wet soil are no help in slowing down the spread of any problems when they do occur. Regardless of whether you are cold or ambient storing, you need to get the temperature down, and cooling soil – an excellent insulator – is difficult to say the least. I am more convinced than ever that we need a brush attachment for the grader to make sure the potatoes are as clean as possible when they go into storage.
The issue with temperature is as much about fluctuation as it is about the number of degrees. Reducing the scale and frequency of temperature changes is partly about directly slowing down the development of pathogens, especially bacterial rots. But, arguably more importantly, it reduces condensation which indirectly exacerbates all sort of problems. We have no plans to move into cold storage at this stage, but I think we should look at how we can better insulate the storage area as a whole ( rather than on an individual box level) once the ambient temperature has dropped. I would like to explore whether surrounding all the boxes with big straw bales a good depth of loose straw on top to allow the condensation to evaporate from the surface would be effective.
I don’t know what the answers are, but after attending the workshop, I think we should put more effort than we have to date in finding them.
Photo Credit: Adrian Cunnington
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