If you are interested in, or concerned about, potato blight, an opportunity to learn more about its management is now open.
The Organic Research Centre, in partnership with the Organic Growers Alliance and Land Workers Alliance, is inviting growers to join the new trial that will explore innovative management approaches including fungal adaptation of soils, resistant varieties and the use of cover crops.
Managing without copper
Copper application has historically been a common solution for combatting blight, but is heavily restricted in organic farming. The fungicide Cuprokylt (Copper oxycloride) could only be used on top fruit and potatoes under emergency authorisations from Defra to September 2017, so until new regulations are agreed the need for reliable alternative blight control methods is pressing. Plenty of smaller growers experiment with alternative methods for controlling blight, and many have successfully delivered decent crops whilst coping with blight. The field lab will bring growers together on more strategic testing, with support from a researcher, to share knowledge and results and deliver broader insight than can lead the way for other farmers.
Blight resistant varieties are on the market, but the challenge can be making these varieties attractive for retail, who depend on varieties more popular with their customers. With this in mind the field lab may also explore the quality, taste and versatility of the varieties grown to identify those with the greatest potential to succeed profitably on a wider scale.
The first meeting takes place on Monday 4 December at Duchy Home Farm in Tetbury. Attendees will hear about the blight pathogen, breeding resistant and the latest ideas for control. They will then decide which management techniques to explore, and design the trials.