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Mildenhall potato trials ‘could pave the way for better crop decisions’

PUBLISHED: 06:00 11 September 2017

Hutchinsons fertiliser manager Tim Kerr.

Hutchinsons fertiliser manager Tim Kerr.

Hutchinsons

A potato crop trials in Suffolk is revealing clear variations in tuber size and plant growth.

Daryll Shailes, Hutchinsons.Daryll Shailes, Hutchinsons.

The trials could pave the way for significant improvements to future potato agronomy, says agronomy firm Hutchinson, which is managing them.

The Fenland Potato Demonstration at Friesland Farm near Mildenhall, is focusing on several key areas, including nitrogen rates, crop safety of post-emergence herbicides, the impact of seed age on yield and integrated potato cyst nematode management.

Despite only being mid-way through the first season, growers attending a recent open day at the site witnessed some interesting early findings which could help inform future decision-making.

The nitrogen trial revealed notable differences, especially when comparing it to the surrounding commercial crop of Maris Piper, said Hutchinsons fertiliser manager Tim Kerr.

The trial itself clearly showed variations in tuber size, advancement and haulm growth at the different nitrogen rates of 0, 100, 200 and 300kg/ha, but he said the most significant difference this spring was more down to how the nitrogen was applied.

He believes the surrounding commercial crop performed better than the trial area because the base NPK (nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium) fertiliser was placed in a band close to seed either side of the ridge, whereas in the trial it was broadcast onto the ploughed surface and incorporated during ridge formation.

“The availability of less mobile nutrients, especially phosphate, can be compromised in dry weather meaning they are less readily available for developing crops to take up. Placing fertiliser close to where it’s needed allows more efficient use of it, especially in dry soils,” he said.

The most visible differences were in the herbicide trial, where the crop effects of four post-emergence herbicides are under investigation across a range of 22 new and established varieties.

“We want to shed more light on how different varieties are affected by post-emergence treatments,” said root crop technical manager Darryl Shailes. “Initially there was quite a lot of impact from the treatments, but because the soil here is so forgiving and crops received decent rainfall at the end of June, many subsequently grew away from those initial effects.”

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