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Soil health key to breaking potato yield plateau in UK

Soil health key to breaking potato yield plateau in UK
January 19, 2014
Potato yield increases in the United Kingdom have stuttered to a halt in a similar manner to cereals in recent years and experts believe improving the state of British potato-growing soils will be vital to drive yields higher again.

Boosting soil nutrition and cutting compaction will be two key factors in breaking through the yield barrier that potato growers have hit over the past 20 years.

Maincrop potato yields increased sharply up to the mid-1990s, but since then yields have stagnated at about 44.6t/ha, according to Potato Council data covering 1960-2013.

Speaking at the recent Cambridge University Potato Growers Research Association (CUPGRA) annual conference, Marc Allison, potato nutrition expert at NIAB-CUF, said there was evidence that this plateau was being caused by a lack of soil fertility, and that many potato growers would say the soils across their farms were not as fertile as they were a generation ago.

“There clearly could be many factors influencing the yield trend, but soil fertility needs to be understood and addressed, or we won’t see a return to an upward curve,” he said.
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Cambridge University Potato Growers Research Association (CUPGRA) was set up to encourage study and research on potatoes. It promotes the interchange of scientific research and field practice for innovative, sound commercial production of potatoes through its association with the Agronomy Research Group at Cambridge University Farm.