Opportunities to improve resource use efficiency and margins in potato production were presented to northern growers at a recent ProCam agronomy evening in Skelmersdale.

Topics included the use of controlled release fertilisers, natural root stimulants and wetting agents, each representing innovative approaches with the potential to improve profitability whilst reducing environmental impact.

Leading the meeting, ProCam county crops director John Cairns urged farmers to embrace new technology to keep their businesses moving forward.

Mr Cairns said: "We work in a challenging and constantly changing industry, and it is necessary to stay abreast of the latest thinking if farmers are going to keep their businesses competitive.

“Where innovation is backed with sound trial data and is appropriate for the crop, our advice is to try it out on a small acreage, comparing it with your standard approach.

"Monitoring performance in your own situation is usually the best way to see what works and what doesn’t.”

Scott Garnett, of ICL Fertilisers, said: "The controlled release technology we have developed for the product Agromaster means nutrients are available when the plant needs them.

“In the case of potatoes, this means just one fertiliser application, reducing trafficking compared with conventional fertiliser applications, and significantly better use of nutrients.

"In trials, we have shown that the use of controlled release fertiliser can reduce nitrate leaching by 55 per cent when compared with conventional fertiliser applications.

"In other trials, a single application of Agromaster controlled release fertiliser resulted in 24% higher marketable yield of ware potatoes when compared with the same level of nutrient input delivered as two liquid applications.

“Establishment is a key period as the young plants have insufficiently developed root systems.

“Introducing symbiotic root-dwelling bacteria at this critical stage is a very effective way to solubilise phosphorus and promote the bioavailability of other plant nutrients in the soil.

“In UK trials on the product RiseP, which can be applied to the soil in conjunction with a range of agrochemicals, marketable tuber yield was shown to be increased by up to 10 per cent.”

“New technology that allows more efficient use of resources, whether this is nitrogen, phosphates or water, has to be high on the agenda for progressive potato growers.

“It’s relevant first and foremost in terms of making businesses more competitive, but it is also important for processors, supermarkets and consumers.

“Our approach at ProCam is to support growers in adopting new technology, to ensure they make the right decisions at the right time for their businesses.”