Successful flail and spray follows

demise of diquat • Product withdrawal is no problem • Quick canopy knockdown critical • Good timing and management key

flail and spray strategy has resulted in a seamless transition away from di- quat for Lincolnshire potato pro- ducer WP Laird & Sons. The family-run business grows 76ha of potatoes for the bag trade and 4ha of home-grown seed about 11 miles north of Bos- ton at Providence Farm, New York. A quick canopy knockdown is especially critical for 32ha of main crop destined for the farm’s 1600t ambient store.


A good skin set is a prerequi- site for the medium to long term storage of ware potatoes – and for producing quality home-grown seed. Growing set skin potatoes is also a skill which requires good management and perfect timing. Historically, grower Gordon Laird would have applied 2 litres/ ha of Reglone followed a week lat- er by 1l litres/ha of Spotlight. If the crop was particularly dense, a second dose of Reglone would be applied before Spotlight.

New strategy Following the diquat ban, Mr Laird has replaced Reglone with Spotlight, which has no Local En-

vironmental Risk Assessment for Pesticides (LERAP) requirement. He has also introduced a Grimme three-bed topper to flail all stored and seed potatoes prior to lifting. “We start lifting Accord –

which is a high yielding early bulking variety – in mid June when yields have reached 12t/ac. This is followed by Saggita and Challenger which are both ear- ly/main crop potatoes and make excellent chips.

“Our early crop is taken off the headlands first to get them out of the way. It means we have a longer distance to the field mar- gins when it comes to desiccating the crop in the middle. In reality, all this means is that we can be more flexible in terms of product choice and field location.” Mr Laird says a flail and spray

approach helps solve the set skin issue without diquat in the pro- gramme. But the flail element might not always be needed be- cause Spotlight does such a good job, he adds.

“Set skin is critical for potatoes going into store. It doesn’t matter how good the store is, without set skin you get bruising and break-

Gordon Laird: The new approach helps solve the set skin issue

down very quickly. The timing of the spray application is key too. It only takes six weeks for pota- toes stored without good skin to start deteriorating.”

We can be more flexible in terms of product choice

For the main crop, Mr Laird aims for 50% natural senes- cence. Two weeks later, he then goes in with the topper. Spotlight is sprayed four to five days after that at 1 litre/ha with Shirlan to seal the stems.

“If a further application is needed to achieve total knock down we might go back in 10 days later with Spotlight again at 0.6 litres/ha,” he says. “Spotlight is

slower acting than Reglone but it does a much better job in my opin- ion. We think it goes into the stem quicker than diquat used to.” Varieties are early main crop and selected for having a less dense canopy, so 1l/ha Spotlight is more than adequate for effec- tive knock-down. Other varieties such as Markies and Piper have more green top, says Mr Laird, and therefore might need a dif- ferent approach to desiccation. Main crop potatoes yield about

62t/ha. Sagitta and Challenger yield higher. Around 75% of the company’s potatoes supply the trade in Newcastle with up to three articulated lorries heading north each week. The remaining 25% are sold locally and in Lin- coln and Doncaster.

Help safeguard your yields, stocks and equipment by repairing, improving or new-build BEFORE

• Roof and gutter repairs • Re cladding and refurbishment • Extensions • New build

Free visits and quotations 01799 540057 14 ANGLIA FARMER •SEPTEMBER 2020

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