Sarvari Research Trust (SRT)

The Sarvari Research Trust (SRT) is the organisation that breeds new, disease resistant varieties of potato that are traded by Sarpo Potatoes Ltd (SPL).  At its core is one of the UK’s leading experts on late blight of potato, Dr David Shaw.  David retired as a lecturer and researcher in Genetics and Plant Pathology at Bangor University in 2002 to begin the work that led to the formation of the Trust. The Trust aims to make potato growing globally less dependent on chemical and energy inputs by producing and promoting low-input varieties. Ideally these should be blight and virus resistant, capable of smothering weeds and have natural dormancy that prevents early sprouting in store.  The Trust would be happy to make some of these varieties available to developing countries where blight and virus are major problems and where subsistence farmers cannot afford expensive chemicals. SRT is based at Henfaes Research Station, the farm owned by Bangor University in North Wales.  Henfaes is wedged between the Carneddau mountains (part of Snowdonia) and the sea, near the village of Abergwngregyn on the beautiful North Wales coast. You can read more at … [Read more…]

The lost garden skill – Potato Breeding

Credit: East Anglia Potato Day – Amateur Potato Breeders Group The Sarvari Trust and Alan Romans, author of the Guide to Potato Varieties booklets have set up this group. Many of its members met in March and are now in contact via e-mail. Here is Alan’s manifesto from early this year: The lost garden skill – Potato Breeding Could you be a next generation Sarpo breeder? Gardeners leave the production of new potato varieties to the scientific “experts.”  Yet before 1930 all varieties were produced by gardeners or farmers using what facilities they had. To this day nearly all European varieties are produced by “hobby” breeders – farmers or growers with an association with one of the large continental potato companies or co-ops.  The Sarpo varieties Mira and Axona are the most blight resistant varieties we know. They have many garden-friendly characteristics – virus resistance, weed suppressing foliage, high food value, continual tuber growth through the season and long dormancy. They are not commercially successful because:  the tubers can grow very long with a twist, and are prone to having green ends,  they can have extremely high starch levels at the end of the growing season,  when over-mature they are often hollow with blackening,  they have poor skin colour and  they have strong stolons which are often still attached after harvesting.  The weed suppressing foliage is slow to start, ironically leading to early weed problems and  at the end of the season the foliage is unwilling to die back and is difficult to clear for harvest. Sarpo Mira and Axona produce flowers readily and have strong male and female fertility. They make good mums and dads! Time to move on and breed the next generation with top blight resistance. The “experts” are engaged elsewhere and there is room for a group of British hobby breeders to cross the Sarpos with other varieties to seek a generally acceptable tuber with top virus and blight resistance. There is a small amount of technical advice available from the Sarvari Trust in North Wales but it would be down to group members to make use of their own facilities – garden/ allotment space, tools, pots, perhaps a greenhouse or polytunnel. Nimble fingers help.  Members could specialize in crossing to produce seed, raising seedlings and selecting potentially useful varieties from the seedlings, or trialing the potentially useful varieties or go for the lot. A meeting is planned by the Sarvari Trust in North Wales in March to discuss what is involved and what relationship is possible between them and hobby breeders. For the moment we want to gather details of anyone interested. Home Alan Romans East Anglia Potato Day supports this Group. There is room for more members so get in touch if you want to be involved. We will need: Your Name    Your Facilities   Your Skills   Your email address New crosses have already been germinated, grown on, planted out, and are now facing selection by potato blight. Other crosses are … [Read more…]

Wassailing at St Laurence Orchard this Sunday!

Join us for Wassailing this Sunday 28th January at 2 pm to 3.30 pm. We have some of the best local folk musicians leading the singing to wake the trees up for the Spring. This is the fourth year we have Wassailed at St Laurence Orchard. Please bring an instrument if you play and don’t forget your wellies! We will have a raffle with some excellent prizes too in aid of Trust Links and Orchard maintenance. Wassailing is a traditional Orchard blessing. Set in the historic St Laurence Orchard, join the community in drinking spiced apple juice, making shakers and ‘toasting’ the trees. St Laurence Orchard is on the corner of Eastwoodbury Lane and St Laurence Way. There is some parking nearby or take the Number 9 bus, which stops close to the Orchard.   … [Read more…]

Southend in Transition (SiT) Community Allotment Taster Day: Saturday 27 January, 10:00 -14:00

It’s all about the willow… Southend in Transition Community Allotment (entrance to allotments off Hamstel Road – Garon’s end – opposite fish and chips Plaice to Be) Where you can learn how to grow food, look after your garden, take fresh produce home, meet new people over a shared meal and exchange ideas on how to help the community thrive. Taster Days – Volunteers and public welcome Sat 27/01 10-14 Willow planting to get ready to make structures on the plot once grown (tunnels/domes etc). Also planting soft fruit shrubs. Emptying compost bins and the joys of getting muddy. 11:30 tea and short tour of the plots 13:00 lunch Sat 10/02 10-14 Compost bin management session 11:30 tea and short tour of the plots 13:00 lunch Come in anytime for a cup of tea! … [Read more…]

About the Blightwatch Service

Blightwatch is supplied by the Met Office who provide the weather data for the service and 101Smart Ltd who provide the IT services. Blightwatch is supported by The Agricultural and Horticultural Development Board (AHDB Potatoes) and operates in conjunction with their ‘Fight Against Blight’ (FAB) service. It also relies on support from agro-industry sponsors. The Met Office and 101Smart Ltd have been working together to enhance the Blightwatch service for the 2017 season. A key part of these enhancements is the refresh of the website for both professional and amateur growers. The Blightwatch service is available to all users free of charge and you can register for the service by using their ‘Join Blightwatch’ section on the homepage by providing a name, email address and up to 10 postcode regions that you would like to receive alerts.   Traditionally the risk of potato blight infection has been based on the calculation of Smith Periods – a system that uses hourly temperature and relative humidity. Until now, as the Blightwatch service switches to the Hutton Criteria. For 2017, the Blightwatch service will be using the Hutton Criteria to calculate and report Blight outbreaks across the UK. Alerts will be generated and sent to users based on the new criteria or when there has been a confirmed FAB outbreak for your chosen postcodes. By using Met Office forecast data for thousands of forecast points across the UK, the Blightwatch service can now provide warning indications up to 24 hours ahead of potential Hutton Criteria. It is important to understand that these warning indications are based entirely on forecast data and are subject to change, but they are a useful ‘heads up’ of the conditions that are forecast for the next day. As with the previous Blightwatch service, the Blightwatch alerts do not constitute a recommendation to spray but will provide an earlier warning to aid management decisions around spray timing and intervals. While every effort has been made to ensure that the information is accurate, no liability can be accepted for any error or omission in the content or for any loss, damage or other accident arising from the use of the fungicides for the control of potato blight in individual crops. … [Read more…]