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Somerset Estate forms partnership to improve eating quality of potatoes

A Somerset potato farm is looking at innovative ways of growing the best tasting spuds.

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Dillington Estates, near Ilminster is working in partnership with research organisations and those in the supply chain to drive productivity and improve marketable yield.

The Estate is one of four Strategic Potato (SPot) Farms in Great Britain and forms part of the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board’s (AHDB) Farm Excellence Platform, which inspires industry to improve performance and succeed through farmer-to-farmer knowledge exchange.

Farm Manager, Ollie Blackburn opened the farm gates for a ‘field walk’ event on (Tuesday) 4 July to allow other local growers and agronomists to discuss the ideas being put into practice.

The topics covered at Dillington are centred around balancing of nitrogen and irrigation in order to produce consistent eating quality of fresh market potatoes, without endangering yield.

Branston Senior Agronomist, Ben Mitchell said, “The demonstration on the indeterminate variety Electra is one I will be watching closely. Last season the average yield from 18 local growers was a credible 60 t/ha.

“However, nitrogen applications across the grower base ranged from 70-160kg/ha and the dry matter level at factory intake ranged between 15 to 22 per cent. Branston’s 2016 data indicated that a higher nitrogen application resulted in lower dry matter, so I’m interested to see a further seasons results.”

Dillington Farm Manager, Ollie Blackburn said, “We’ve taken soil type and previous yield into account and have used 120kg/ha of Nitrogen on our commercial Electra crops. We are demonstrating this rate with one higher, at 150kg/ha, and one lower at 90kg/ha, as well as exploring standard and reduced irrigation rates.

AHDB Potatoes Knowledge Exchange Manager Anne Stone said: “The SPot Farm Programme provides a platform for local farmers to explore the potential for new technology and best practice in a commercial setting.

“We have experts from various parts of the industry involved including the Dillington team, Branston, and Dr Mark Allison of NIAB CUF, who is providing scientific back-up to the demonstration.”

Ollie Blackburn said: “The partnership we have formed here has given us the benefit of research and development knowledge and information on what the consumer is looking for. Using our awareness of the land here at Dillington we were keen to see if the latest thinking could improve the quality of the product we are producing.”

There is a further chance to visit Dillington this summer – with a Field Walk on August 1. To register for this events please visit the AHDB Potatoes events page

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