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Transformative Reduced Input in Potatoes

How do we integrate root crops into a reduced input system?

Project Aims

Less intensive soil preparation

Minimal application of soil applied fertilisers (particularly nitrogen)

Robust cultivar and IPM package to cope with soil borne pests & disease pressure

Moving towards Net Zero – establish novel and practical approaches to reducing CO2 emissions when growing potatoes

Reductions in cultivation intensity and inorganic fertilsers which are major components of the potato carbon footprint

Approach and innovation

Our innovation is the integration of regenerative agriculture and novel nutrient and breeding technologies in potato production. This provides a framework to promote soil health and reduce environmental impacts whilst sustainably maintaining agricultural productivity and incomes. These approaches will ultimately build system resilience to climate change.

Our holistic approach uses complementary techniques that individually effect change but together work effectively to enable a systems shift to low input and low disturbance, sustainable potato production. The approach is delivered through a network of field trials. The four strands of our approach are:

1) Minimum-till and reduced tillage growing of potatoes, in rotation with arable crops. Preliminary research has shown that potatoes can be grown in a minimum tillage system by planting seed potatoes on the soil surface and covering with a crop-derived mulch, avoiding the intensive cultivation associated with conventional systems.

TRIPTransformative Reduced Input in Potatoes will upscale this preliminary research to test and evaluate minimum-till potato production in different pedoclimate zones characteristic of different potato growing areas. Until new low-input cultivars are available, existing low-input potatoes that can be grown without chemical input (eg Sarpo cvs) will be grown alongside industry standard cultivars so that the most suitable cultivars can be identified.

2) Plant nutrition. Application of mulches, with novel foliar nutrient and biostimulant technology will be trialled to determine to what extent these applications can reduce conventional soil-applied fertilisers and their high emissions. Preliminary R&D, developed by partners as part of an EU-funded grant, bio-NASPA, and the Innovate-funded POSTCOVA project, showed that foliar applications of nutrients and biostimulants can reduce the carbon footprint and associated emissions, while maintaining yields.

3) New potato cultivars. Existing low-input, Sarpo cultivars have limited consumer acceptance, whereas other cultivars with satisfactory acceptance have limited low-input traits. Therefore, we aim to breed new, acceptable low-input cultivars that also have additional, desirable low-input traits. Trials will use existing and new low-input Sarpo cultivars that will be compared with industry-standard cultivars.

4) Integrated pest management to complement the new potato clones and further reduce agrochemical requirements, by building on partners’ developments of novel techniques for the suppression of tuber-borne diseases (based on soil-improvers) and techniques for attracting hoverflies into crops to provide natural biocontrol of aphids.

The outputs will include data on productivity and GHG emissions for the combination of cultivation methods and a breeding strategy. Outputs will be reported at demonstrations and conferences.

ERL’s TRIP Research Facilities at Bangor University’s Henfaes facility.

Consortium partner Emerald Research Ltd continues to research and develop new ways of producing, combining, formulating and delivering bioactive compounds for use within the project.

TRIP key project contacts

Richard Meredith – Dyson Farming Research

Simon Fox – Emerald Research Ltd

Ingo Hein – James Hutton Institute

Craig Price – Light Science Technologies

Katherine Steele – Bangor University

Andrew Ormerod