Yorkshire potato farm sought to lead local innovation

Picture: Matt Alexander/PA Wire
Picture: Matt Alexander/PA Wire
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A search is underway to identify a Yorkshire potato grower who can showcase new and innovative methods of production for others to follow.

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) is attempting to establish its Strategic Potato Farm concept in the region, after setting up similar projects elsewhere in the UK.

Graham Bannister, regional knowledge exchange manager for the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

Graham Bannister, regional knowledge exchange manager for the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board.

Designed to help farmers learn directly from each other, the scheme will see the host farm test different cultivation and soil management techniques, crop nutrition theories, and a variety of potato types and seed rates, amongst other things, to advise more productive and efficient crop growing.

Expressions of interest are being sought now and AHDB Potatoes’s regional knowledge exchange manager Graham Bannister hopes to have sufficient applications by the last week of January to draw up a shortlist of three farms, before a single successful applicant is chosen.

Mr Bannister, who lives in Bedale, said: “As a Yorkshireman, I’m excited to bring this successful programme to Northern England for the first time.

“We’re seeking an innovative grower to work with us to challenge conventional working practices and, using proven research, demonstrate how potato growers can benefit from applying beneficial adjustments to commercial growing systems.”

He said: “It is very much farmer led and will not just focus on what AHDB wants to trial. Those decisions will be made with the host farmer and what there is an appetite for trying in that local area.”

As well as taking part in field trials and demonstrations, the host will hold open days for other farmers and will be expected to speak at industry events. They must also be prepared to discuss how on-farm changes make a difference financially.

“The purpose of all this is that other farmers will be able to take something away and will have the confidence to try on their own farm,” said Mr Bannister.

He envisages the Strategic Farm being active in the scheme for a period of up to six years.

The concept can be hugely valuable to growers at a crucial time for the industry, he said.

“Farmers really need to look at what is next to drive their businesses because of Brexit.

“There is a lot of work to do and things like this will make sure people are thinking about how they are running their farms.”