Our Open Days on 4th and 5th September welcomed around 60 guests to Henfaes, over two days of perfect summer weather. 

James outlines his PhD research
Our tomato experts were there in force on the first day. Simon Crawford of Burpee Europe introduced our collaborative  project on breeding tomato varieties with better resistance to late blight. John Burrows and Barry Smith from ProVeg  provided tomato samples for guests to taste and score. James Stroud (PhD - KESS student with SRT and Bangor University) told us about his latest results on breeding with resistance genes and on a comparison of populations of Phytophthora infestans taken from tomato with that from potato in UK. James is making good progress identifying resistance genes using molecular probes and combining these in progeny that have desirable traits for the amateur and professional grower.

Simon Crawford, James and Katherine
discuss the trial with Medwyn Williams
Katherine explains the tunnel trial
After the talks, Simon, John, Barry and Katherine Steele (KESS supervisor, Bangor University) showed guests around the field and  poly tunnels  Here, selected genotypes and cultivars are on trial for their blight resistance, taste and use in the UK outdoor climate. 
 David Shaw introduced and updated our work on the Sarpo range of blight resistant potatoes.  A current research strand involves treating blight-susceptible varieties of potato with dilute sea water. Results show this can suppress tuber blight and increase crop yield. A trial  with a foliar feed containing phosphite (Phi-Diamond) showed suppression of foliage blight and also increased yield of tubers of blight susceptible cultivars.
Simon White explains the replicated potato trial

Simon White told guests about the production of Sarpo seed potato crops in North Wales and elsewhere and his ongoing project selecting new Sarpo varieties. We were pleased to introduce David Gale who is now managing sales of Sarpo seed for our new company, Sarpo Potatoes Ltd, which is owned by the Trust.

When we visited the field trial of potatoes, guests saw Sarpo blight resistance in action. Replicate plots of selected cultivars and potential cultivars were showing little or no foliage blight They  stood out from plots of susceptible cultivars (dead) and of controls with only moderate resistance.

David Shaw and Simon in the potato trial
We were pleased to welcome some of our team of Buzzbnk Crowdfunders on the Friday. A few of these are having fun doing their own crosses and selecting for traits that interest them.  This activity was common among amateur growers in the 19th century and should be pursued more often today.  You never know, you might find a winner.

We were pleased to welcome our own Potato Guru from Fyfe, Alan Romans.  Alan told us what the Sarpo potatoes mean to him and their greater importance in the world of potatoes. He emphasised that they are a different breed of potato from those most often grown.  To be grown well they need to be understood and treated differently e.g. their ability to be used early, mid-season and late and the dangers of letting them grow on too long in the autumn. Experiment!

On both days, our visitors enjoyed  a potato-themed lunch made with Sarpo varieties and cooked by Café-Deli 1815. Chips made from new-season’s Blue Danube went down well, and so did the  local Jones o Gymru crisps.

Sarvari Research Trust is part supported by the Supply Chain Efficiencies scheme of the Welsh Government under the European Agricultural Fund for Rural Development.