Potato Blog: Measuring is knowledge

Continuing our blog series from our Northern Europe potato expert Olaf van Campen, sharing his insights to the world of potatoes

Very best wishes to everyone for the new growing season and good luck and, especially, good health in 2017. Without health, the rest is not worth much!

Preparations for 2017 have already started and analyses of 2016 have been done. What went well, what could have been better and what do we have to adapt etc? Crop plans, and pest management plans have been discussed and finalised. Everything has a good foundation and the interrelationship between research, advice and the experience of growers are the basis. I put most emphasis on research. Measuring what you did and what the results were, can positively influence future decisions.

During our seed potato study with a group of farmers, we invited two speakers. Dutch research and advisory service TTW explained that many seed potato plots have been sampled since 2005 - a lot of information, which can underline future decisions. We know, that we want at least 50 seed potato tubers per metre, preferably 60. That is the result the farmer is working for the whole year. And at least 30 stems per metre. There are many factors that have an influence on this, for example, how the potatoes have been stored.

I have seen many (Talent) storage cells in recent weeks and there are many differences. By measuring air speed, air distribution and CO2 levels, you can give clear advice. The optimal air distribution in a potato store for Talent is 100m3 / tonnes / hour. This is roughly equivalent to 0.5-1.0 m/s. There are cells in which we have measured 3.0 m/s. By reducing the speed of the EC fans, the end result will be better. Moreover, you can perform smoke tests, which make the airflow clearly visible, and indicate whether there is sufficient air passing through each box. Vaporisers (either Cyclomatics or Resonators) may in this way be placed in the correct location in the cell and be orientated in the right direction to dispense the product.

Another topic that we discussed in the study group was ‘Fieldweb’, a platform where farmers in the future can link their field information. Digitisation continues and I am confident that we can increase our yield by means of precision agriculture - doing the right thing, in the right place, with the right amount. Spot-specific haulm killing for potato crops is one example. And tractor brands, for example Fendt, are also ready to take the next step with, for example MARS; https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FquW_WDBIE4

Another study currently running is monitoring European phytophthora. Geert Kessel from Wageningen University presented the latest results. It became clear that clone 'Pink6' is still of most importance in the UK, but that ‘Blue13’ is still dominant in the rest of Europe. Clone 'Green33' was found at only one location in Europe in 2016.  We have been measuring since 2010 and adapting spraying applications in the following years. With the result that we hardly find this aggressive strain at the moment. Data from the other European countries will shortly be available on www.euroblight.net

Finally, as growers we also measure the yield per hectare. The grading season for seed potatoes is in full swing. It is useful to know the net kilograms of the various varieties which will provide the foundation for the coming year's planting. Measuring the dormancy and content of the tubers will be the basis of a top yield next year.

Again, I wish everyone good luck in this new growing season.


Olaf van Campen
13 January 2017


Olaf van Campen is Adama’s Northern Europe Crop Manager for Potatoes and Sugarbeets. He joined Adama six years ago as development specialist in the N-Zone in Europe (Scandinavia and Baltics). Previously, having studied Agricultural Business Mangement, Olaf worked for HZPC, the biggest seed potato company in the world, based in Joure, Netherlands, where he was a sales/logistic representative for consumption potatoes in Europe. He then went on to work in the advisory service Delphy in the Netherlands, giving advice in arable crops like potatoes, sugarbeets, onions, carrots, cereals.

Potato Measure Map
Phytophthora population in UK in 2016
Potato Measure Strorage
Measuring air distribution in potato storage