Funding announced for major new potato research project

Potatoes New Zealand Inc. has won funding from the Ministry of Primary Industries for a major research project aimed at improving crop yield.

The $260,000 three-year project, which will be financed through the Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) and managed by the Foundation for Arable Research (FAR), will investigate the impact of different potato crop rotations on soil borne diseases and soil quality.

Potatoes NZ chief executive Champak Mehta said the project aimed to develop and implement strategies to increase potato yields by 12 per cent, in line with the organisation’s industry target.

“This is a very important project and we are delighted to have obtained SFF funding,” said Mr Mehta. “Increase in yield will ensure the economic viability of the potato industry in New Zealand.

The country’s 170-plus potato growers will benefit directly and there will be further benefits to the wider community through the environmental advantages of sustainable cropping systems and secure rural land use.”

FAR chief executive Nick Pyke said the project was developed following extensive discussions with growers about the key problems they face with potato crops.

“That regularly comes back to trying to minimise soil-borne diseases and maximise soil quality which often relates to having the right crop rotations in place and understanding what crops, such as wheat, barley, forage brassica or grass will contribute in the way of benefits to a subsequent potato crop.

“This research is about understanding which crops are best suited to potato rotation through minimising soil borne disease and maximising soil quality.”

The project will begin in July and be carried out in Auckland, Hawkes Bay, Manawatu/Whanganui and Canterbury with input from organisations including FAR and Plant & Food Research. Detailed research will be carried out on small plots at two locations, most likely Auckland and Lincoln. Further monitoring and trials will be carried out on farms practising potato crop rotations.

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