A Yorkshire farmer believes that the health of his potato crop benefited from biologicals that he applied to support the crop in coping with fluctuating weather patterns and periods of stress.
Richard Smith from Bamburgh Grange Farm, near Doncaster, has been applying calcium phosphite to his 320ha of potatoes for the past five years and said that the tailored nutrition and biologicals provide a cheaper means of boosting plant health and resilience. He said: “Risk management in the potato business is relatively simple to talk about but very difficult to do.
“The cost of growing the crop is now enormous and the risks associated are also huge. We’ve got to cover some of that risk somehow. That means investment in new technologies and trying to make everything a bit more robust.”
Mr Smith is a third-generation McCain potato farmer and won the 2019 McDonald’s Outstanding Farmer of the Year Award. He first applies Unical, produced by Unium Biosciences, at planting. He continued: “Biologicals have a part to play in general crop health – keeping them in the mix is important, it’s just vital that you understand where best to use them in your programme and having the flexibility – there’s no point putting them on in hindsight.
“You need to predict where the weather conditions appear to be going and apply them in advance before the problem is there.”
During the growing season, a foliar application of Calfite Extra is made at the onset of tuber bulking. Mr Smith said that calcium provides general plant health, supports stress resilience and creates a healthy root system.
Mr Smith believes that biologicals will play a part in helping businesses manage the lack of available pesticides: “New technology in terms of pesticides just isn’t happening because it’s very expensive to register something and we’re losing an awful lot of the active ingredients we’ve already got. So our toolbox of chemicals in much smaller. We need products that can help us keep our crops healthy and that’s where biologicals will come in.”
He credits his use of biologicals with boosting the marketability of his potato crop and his overall gross margin: “They have definitely had an effect on tuber quality which has, in turn, boosted saleable yield and the marketability of my potatoes.
“I’m also very positive about the other products Unium Biosciences has in the pipeline – the results I’ve seen look very promising.”