The Seed Potato Organisation (SPO), the UK’s sole representative body for the seed potato sector, identifies extreme weather as a major challenge for growers.

Rising temperatures are leading to an increase in aphids that spread disease, posing a threat to Scotland’s typically clean, virus-free crops. While European countries have been battling potato crop viruses for decades, the warming climate is pushing these issues further north.

The SPO represents a third of Scotland’s seed potato acreage and has been actively raising funds from its members to support various initiatives and projects. Notably, they supported the SRUC’s virus summit in December by helping to cover some of the costs.

One innovative approach the SPO is exploring involves using food coloring on newly emerged potato plants to confuse aphids. Agrivista’s trials on carrots showed excellent results, with a significant reduction in virus transmission. Inspired by this success, Scottish Agronomy is testing green food coloring sprays on new fields. This method camouflages the plants, making it difficult for aphids to identify them, and aims to reduce the need for insecticides.

The SPO also supports several disease-related projects, including the James Hutton Institute’s monitoring of blight across Europe. This research identifies different blight strains and highlights any resistance issues. Additionally, the SPO invests in the SAC potato roguing course to encourage more participation and supports the Scottish stand at Fruit Logistica, the world’s largest fruit and vegetable show.

SPO chair Mike Wilson emphasized the importance of their presence at Fruit Logistica, stating, “Our attendance was crucial to demonstrate our focus on finding new markets. We received significant interest from many countries, including those in the EU that we currently cannot supply. We hope to open new markets once the necessary paperwork is completed.”

Furthermore, Mr. Wilson mentioned that the SPO has been working to enhance engagement with SASA (Science and Advice for Scottish Agriculture), resulting in improved interactions with growers over the past months. The SPO also participates in key events like James Hutton’s Potatoes in Practice and the British Potato event in Harrogate.