Adopting new techniques when growing potatoes

YORKSHIRE Wolds seed potato producer Andrew Manfield shared with Perth conference delegates some of the particular problems associated with growing potatoes in this part of the country, one particular problem being the lack of soil.

With only about 30in (140mm) of topsoil to work with in many fields, Mr Manfield, through his RTK Solutions precision farming business, has developed ways to make the most of it.

“The scarcity of soil means it is crucial to avoid compaction and correct fitment of machine wheelings is critical,” he said.

His RTK Autosteer system used GPS technology and allowed accuracy to within one inch (25mm) for every machine passing through the crop.

It also had repeatability, which meant tractors and machines were running in exactly the same tracks time after time, leaving the beds in pristine condition.

He had achieved this level of accuracy by mounting the satellite aerials on the machines themselves, from the plough, right through the ridging, separating, planting operation, through to the harvester.

“The Dutch found that following cultivations were better if ploughing was perfect,” he said.

“The first pass determines wheelings for the rest of the cultivations. The plough, ridger and destoner are all steered to within one inch, which means the planter always fits the bed perfectly retaining every possible bit of soil.”

Dutch technology

He described Dutch technology he had adopted on his farm to avoid apical dominance in seed potatoes.

A forklift-mounted box turner was used to rotate the boxes just as the eyes were opening. This did just enough damage to the seed to encourage other eyes to open and was done several times before planting.

Trials in Holland had shown increased tuber numbers from using this box turning technique, said Mr Manfield.

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