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Late Potato Blight is Your Fault

According to the Potato Council, the body representing commercial potato growers in the UK, ‘Allotment Amateurs’ are responsible for making blight worse than it would otherwise be.

To be exact, the corporate affairs manager, Maria Ball, stated small plots were responsible for a “disproportionate amount of overall blight pressureWhen I read this I really didn’t know whether to laugh, cry or rant at the computer.

The chairman of the potato council chipped in with”…it would be preferable if people bought healthy, well-produced potatoes from their retailer, rather than grow their own.

So, let me just get this straight. There are 160,000 hectares of land in commercial potatoes. Maybe about 6,300 hectares given to allotments of which maybe a quarter is given to potatoes – say 1,500 hectares less than 1% of the total commercial production. But our ignorance of what to do and lack of chemicals is providing a reservoir for potato blight.

Worst Year for Potato Blight

Well actually this year has been the worst for Smith periods since records began in 2003. We’ve had 10,069 against 4,441 in 2011. The wettest summer ever. Perfect conditions for potato blight (see this article: Potato Blight) The farmers chemical arsenals have failed to stop blight hammering crops despite repeated use.

But blame us home growers and suggest we buy their healthy, chemical-filled potatoes from the shops instead. Excuse me while I wipe away some foam from my mouth!

They used to say the skins were where the vitamins were in potatoes but nowadays the advice is to peel them because of the chemical sprays used. Unless you’re wealthy enough to pay the premium price for organic, of course. And what can the organic grower use that the amateur can’t? Nothing!

Now the fact is that we grew our potatoes on a windy hillside, miles away from any other potato grower and many miles from any commercial growers. And we got badly hit by blight. I’m not keen on chemical sprays – although I’m not a strict organic grower – and so I removed the haulm stopping further growth and the blight spreading to the tubers

We probably ended up with as much of a crop per square metre as any commercial grower who sprayed and sprayed. In main part that was due to growing a blight resistant variety, Sarpo.

Perhaps the commercial growers could think about growing some resistant varieties and reducing their chemical bills. I don’t know for sure, but I’d bet a tenner that the commercial growers all use the same 2 or 3 varieties and hardly any grow resistant varieties.

The best defence to any disease or against bugs is variety. Vast fields of the same variety (monoculture) is just asking for trouble but in a varied population someone is likely to be immune or at least resistant..

A cynic might think that the chairman of the potato council has a hidden reason to advise people to buy commercial rather than growing their own. With thanks to The Grocer for their article.

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary

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