CIPC loss will affect storage and push up potato prices

In the run-up to The Potato Industry Event BP2019 at Harrogate on 20-21 November, Dr Rob Clayton, AHDB’s resident potato expert and Sector Strategy Director, based at Sutton Bridge, examines the future of crop storage

Losing CIPC (our mainstay sprout suppressant) at a European and national level will be a huge blow to the potato sector. Nationally, our dead-reckoning is that without alternative solutions we’ll suffer a 12-week gap in self-sufficiency and long-term storage will be the sacrifice.

If we were to import raw and processed products to fill that gap, it would be the equivalent of a 50% price hike across all fresh and processed potato products.

Some sub-sectors would be more compromised than others and while the fresh sector could eek things out using a combination of alternatives like maleic hydrazide (in field) and ethylene and mint-oil in store, our fries and crispers would be much more challenged in maintaining fry colours and controlling sprouting.

To pep things up even more, the process for getting 1,4‑dimethylnapthaline approved in the UK looks a bit ploddy and it seems that we will have to wait a little longer, unlike our key competitors in mainland Europe who already have several years’ experience  with this newer alternative.

Last year, the CHAP units at Sutton Bridge Crop Storage Research swung into action as part of a larger research programme to find a solutions. Our mission is simple – claw back the 12 weeks.

Potato research is a tricky business with every variety performing differently in the field and in store with very precise quality specifications and storage requirements. It figures therefore that the research programme in complex and includes ranking varieties by natural dormancy, seeing how varieties perform under different treatment regimes of alternative sprout suppressants, looking closely at how specific treatments and temperatures affect fry colour and extending this work to cover the impact of gases like CO2, which accumulate during the treatment process.

We’re also taking a long hard look at how to clean potato stores as part of a broader European initiative. Years of CIPC use have left a legacy of residue which will continue to permeate stored crops unless we can identify ways of cleaning up previously treated crops.

In spite of what some researchers think, they have the easy bit. The harder bit relates to knowledge transfer and achieving the behavioural change in time for it to make a difference to the GB potato sector.

It means breaking with tradition, getting results out to end users quickly and being creative in landing the sense of urgency required to make a difference. All the research results now run through one national hub www.ahdb.org.uk/storage-hub. All of our main stakeholder organisations; FPSA, PPA, BPTA, NFU, NFUS are lending some muscle to spread the word.

Will we claw back the 12 weeks? That remains to be seen. A future combination of the right varieties subject to the right treatments will get us close, but there remains an awful lot to do before we get there.

If you have any questions about CHAP’s Crop Storage Research Facility at AHDB’s Sutton Bridge site or want to contact the CHAP team to discuss a specific project idea, send us an email at enquiries@chap-solutions.co.uk

Please note, the opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of CHAP. 

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