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An Agronomist’s View

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The E. Park & Sons Ltd New Product Development trials have continued apace once again making the fifth year that both new clones from a joint venture with Grampian Grower’s and Skea Organics (Grampian Park Skea) plus other new selections from breeders both here in the UK and the European Union.

These new plants have been bred using time honoured traditional methods, by cross pollinating flowers to produce seed and then growing on. The resulting ‘mini tubers’ are called a ‘clone’ until it has finally earned its spurs to be called a variety and then be given its unique name.

The seed tubers were planted 23rd April 2020 under ideal conditions to assess the newly bred plants performance both in pest and disease resistance as well as taste; something that doesn’t always necessarily go together but selections are well advanced now and include only the best tasting from some 4000 seedlings all assessed over 5 years in field.

Planting began on the North Lincolnshire site in April 2020 under Covid 19 ‘lockdown rules’ that saw a group of key workers including prospective university students to continue to work through with this important but essential work.

The trial work is overseen by the E. Park & Sons Ltd company agronomist Pip Blaylock who joined the company mid-season back in 2014 to establish new commercial varieties tasked to select a range of desirable attributes to match both growers, retailers and processors’ requirements. These attributes include broad PCN resistance and also specific resistance to Globodera pallida.

G pallida has proved to be such an intractable problem with ever growing populations in UK soils. Once these varieties have been accepted commercially growers can begin to reduce G pallida populations while maintaining outputs which are essential to retain farm profitability.

Pip Blaylock added, ‘Finally, we are seeing the fruits of our labours and now GPS have some great tasting clones and once through national listing they will emerge as new and exciting varieties to help the supply chain produce good tasting, wholesome potatoes that are more environmentally beneficial and will contribute to reduction of pesticide use in the long term and therefore be much more sustainable’.

– Pip Blaylock

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