Open Day on 6th August a great success

Around 60 potato enthusiasts attended on Friday to hear about the work of the Trust.  David Shaw welcomed the guests and explained how blight was becoming more aggressive on potato crops and how Sarpo varieties were able to stand up to the severe blight pressures of the new blight strains over the past 3 years.  David emphasised how the Sarpo varieties yield well with low inputs and so save money at all stages of production.  Lower inputs mean lower carbon footprint in a crop that would normally accumulate a large carbon footprint and leave a residue of chemical pesticides in the environment.

Trials Manager, Simon White explained how Sarpo varieties are assessed and showed how potential new Sarpo varieties are compared with established varieties in the field.  Simon presented evidence from trials in NW Wales and Cornwall this year and over the past few years and emphasised how many non-Sarpo resistant varieties no longer showed useful resistance when infected with the new virulent strains of blight.  Simon outlined how PreBasic and Basic certified seed of all seven Sarpo varieties is being grown in north and mid - Wales to supply an increasing demand at home and abroad.

Tim Lang, Professor of Food Policy, one of our guest speakers, broke his holiday to attend.  Tim outlined how governments in UK said they were committed to a providing home-grown, healthy food via sustainable agriculture but did not value the committment enough to even maintain support in recent months. He regretted lack of support for small companies like SRT, striving to make the growing of potatoes a lot more sustainable.
Dr Tina Barsby our other guest speaker is CEO and Director of National Institute of Agricultural Botany in Cambridge.  Tina, an alumna of Agricultural Botany at Bangor University, outlined how earlier in her career, she had been involved in the improvement of potatoes using protoplast fusion techniques.  Tina went on to tell us how NIAB scientists were involved with assessments of potato including Sarpos and with independent work for BASF in the assessment of blight-resistant, GM potatoes.  A lively discussion followed on the pros and cons of the GM method of potato breeding.

Lunch gave guests the chance to find out how Sarpo potatoes taste.  Chips from freshly harvested Sarpo Mira vanished as soon as they touched the table.  Cocktail sticks armed with chunks of steamed Sarpo varieties allowed the flavours of different varieties to be compared.

After a dry start in North Wales followed by some 150mm of rain in July, our trials at Henfaes and on Anglesey have been spectacular in distinguishing the Sarpo varieties from other so called resistant varieties.                                                                                          The afternoon session was held at Glyn Farm, Llanbedrgoch, Anglesey by courtesey of Mr Roger Tebbutt.  The trial compared the performance of Sarpo and non-sarpo varieties under heavy blight pressure.  The epidemic here caused by the Blue 13 strain of blight had killed the foliage of all but the most resistant varieties and the latter were all Sarpo varieties and seedlings.  We had a most satisfying afternoon with lots of discussion on the merits of each variety and managed to dodge the threatening rain.
Click photo to enlarge