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Organic farmers come together to tackle potato blight

Working together on potato blight

On 18th September the Soil Association held an Organic Potato Workshop hosted by RB Organics. Attended by a good range of representation from across the industry including breeders, seed producers, agronomists, biological product producers, growers, AHDB, certification bodies and retailers the workshop culminated in a constructive discussion exploring ways forward in a future without copper in potato production.

Click here to see agroecological ways of managing potato blight on your farm. 

There were four main outcomes:

Setting up field labs

With a strong appetite from growers to work on potential alternatives, be that systems or treatments, discussions opened on setting up a range of field labs. The results of these robust trials would help inform and steer research exploring innovative solutions. Innovative Farmers and AHDB hope to arrange the first meeting of interested growers before Christmas. Growers interested in participating in trialling new innovative solutions can contact Hugh Blogg on hblogg@soilassociation.org

Working together

There was a great willingness at the workshop to come together and work collaboratively across the sector. Due to this enthusiasm we propose to set up a working group to meet a few times a year to help the sector with blight and any other relevant issues. Additional members are most welcome – if you are interested in joining please contact Hugh Blogg on hblogg@soilassociation.org

Temporary licensing

It was decided that AHDB would lead on possible solutions for licenses for copper making it available in the short term. Growers opting for this approach are advised to make themselves known to Kathryn Hales at AHDB on Kathryn.Hales@ahdb.org.uk For the latest technical legislative advice Sarah Hathway, Soil Association Certification, can be contacted on SHathway@soilassociation.org

Building the market for blight resistant varieties 

The workshop highlighted the need for retailers and packers to collaborate dramatically improving the uptake of blight-resistant varieties. The Soil Association business development team will be exploring moving forward on this initiating conversations with key retailers and feeding back to the relevant parties.

We’d like to thank Organic Plus for funding the workshop – for more information about Organic Plus: https://organic-plus.net/