Dear Member

Six months have now passed since our last newsletter, and we still have seen no real break in the weather in that time! With last year’s rainfall the highest recorded since 1971 most of us will never have experienced as wet conditions for such a lengthy period.

With potato planting about to commence let us hope the weather improves so that we can get through it with no breaks due to weather.

Following on from our last newsletter in October we probably did not expect the season to turn out like it did, with heavy rainfall all over Europe the potato price steadily increased due to lack of product available for the shelves and for planting this coming season resulting in an uplift on seed and ware potatoes. All very welcome as some growers still had potatoes in the ground into the new year.

We attended the potato event at Harrogate which was very well attended with growers, and it was great to meet a lot of the English seed growers who were all extremely interested in our organisation. Once we have a strong seed representation in Scotland and our focus moves further afield, we will increase promotional activities for membership in England.

December brought us to the virus summit held in Dundee and organised by Stuart Whale, the SPO helped finance and sponsor the event as we believed it was in the seed growers’ interest to protect our crops from the higher pressures that warmer summers bring from virus.

Working alongside the seed strategy group and SASA some new ideas came forward to help protect our seed industry, these were discussed and adapted and were then put forward by SASA at their roadshows around the country. These new measures are there to protect our world leading product and most attendees approved them going forward.

The SPO are also looking for improvements in tuber inspections where it has been suggested that chasing paper was now out of date and that we need to be doing the paperwork electronically to speed things up in this ever-progressive world. This was noted by SASA, but they explained they may have to increase charges as there had been no increase for 30 years!

Patrick and I attended Fruit Logistica in February in Berlin which was a great experience and lots of contacts made from over the World, Patrick will expand on this in his section.

We had our first AGM (Annual General Meeting) in February in Inverness which was very well attended.

Graham Tomlin from VCS gave a small presentation about the challenges and trials they were holding in Norfolk and Suffolk and explained that virus was one of their biggest headaches with only 2 years multiplication often enough as virus levels often exceeded 10% resulting in quality issues and yield reduction.

To increase our membership, we have welcomed on-board Mark Clark, previously CEO at Grampian Growers until his retirement, Mark is now working with the SPO part time recruiting new members and providing feedback to the Board on any thoughts and suggestions from the contacts he makes.

The board unanimously we could reduce this year’s membership to £500, focus efforts on growing membership and still have enough resources to continue and support other projects

We will continue to contribute to the fight against blight campaign and have agreed to provide support to the SAC potato rogueing course as required.

The SPO have also applied through the HCP for the emergency use of Olie H oil which is available in Europe but not the UK. This would give us more options on aphid control with 6 applications available after tuber initiation. This application may be costly but worthwhile, and a good trial of the process for other applications of chemical use we may apply for in the future to assist us growing heathy potatoes.

The SPO are also supporting Scottish Agronomy with some trial work with straw mulch and hopefully a new idea by dying the ground to make it all the same colour to try and confuse the aphids, this all sounds easy but finding the proper dye is a challenge but watch this space!

Recently it has been announced that there will be a legacy from the AHDB of £1.8 m, DEFRA have implied their preferred option is to give the money back to the industry via one organisation and it appears this may be GB potatoes. At the AGM this was discussed and for the good of the industry we decided to endorse this and will take steps to ensure the seed industry gets a fair proportion of this.

The next venue we will be attending is the Royal Highland Show where members are invited to join a drinks reception in the SAOS stand 7th avenue just up from SRUC on Friday at 3pm. This will be a chance for us all to meet and discuss issues in the seed potato industry, catchup, and chat about the fine weather! Agrii have very kindly agreed to sponsor the refreshments which we are grateful for.

We look forward to seeing you all at the Highland Show and here is to a successful planting season, happy planting!

Mike Wilson SPO Chairman