I just got this tweet forwarded from Monty Don; 'Potato council blaming gardeners for spread of potato blight. Fight this
crap and resolve to grow your own next year.' It is true that the Potato Council has accused amateur gardeners of spreading potato blight – leading to poor harvests and price rises.
Chairman of the Potato Council, Allan Stevenson told The Grocer
magazine: “People should be encouraged to grow their own veg to learn
about the origins of their food, but blight risk is real and it would be
preferable if people bought healthy, well-produced potatoes from a
retailer, rather than grow-their-own.”
While a spokesman for the Royal Horticultural Society’s science department
described the Potato Council’s comments as “unhelpful” and “not true”. He said: “The high price of spuds and low yields is due to late
planting in May/June instead of April, low light levels in June, flood
damage, high levels of blackleg due to wet weather on seed crops last
year and late lifting due to the difficulty of getting machinery onto
wet soil, leading to low quality tubers which have a limited storage
“It is true that more blight has been reported from allotments but
this, we would suggest, is because many allotmenteers have become
registered blight scouts for the British Potato Council and more eyes
mean more reports. It should be noted there are few allotments near big
Indeed so carry on growing your own rather than those sprayed every week with fungicide.
Sarvari Research Trust breeds non-GM, blight-resistant potatoes that don’t need
constant spraying. These are known as Sarpo varieties. They have a
promising new seedling (let’s call it Crow, short for Crowdfunded for
now) to extend their Sarpo range. They need to test Crow’s performance
against standard varieties in the field/garden and in the kitchen. Then they can send seed of Crow for government testing (very expensive) over
two growing seasons. If the regulators agree that Crow would make a
useful new variety, they will award it National List status. Then the
variety can make a big contribution to really sustainable food
production in UK and abroad. They need £5000 to help do this.
They can’t get grant funding for this kind of work because is thought to be
near market research and therefore a private matter. Breeders of GM
resistant potatoes do get grant support! So, if you join them by donating
funds, time or skills, it can make all the difference. As a backer, you can participate in their research by testing Crow and sending us your results. See how to support this project here.
I spotted this Permaculture Magazine article here that highlighted how austerity measures have led to what is being called the Greek
'Potato Revolution'. As the Permaculture article says, "incomes fall and retail prices rise, Greeks are
cutting out the middle man, paying up to three times less than they
usually would for potatoes and buying them straight from the farmers
themselves. Is this a precursor of transition culture and does it point
towards people adopting, as we would say in permaculture, more
beneficial relationships?" This report from France's Observers network
makes for exciting reading.
In this new book Alan Wilson explores the beauty and diversity of over 400
potato varieties with the aim to get us all to grow eat and understand
this much loved vegetable. Issues of concern to organic gardeners such
as the biology of the potato, pest diseases as well as many topical
subjects affecting the potato are all covered. The Alan Wilson
top 100 potato varieties dominates the book but as Alan clearly says any
review of new cultivars is only the start. What is your top 100? From
King Edward to Sunrise and back in time to Pink Fir Apple and the
coloured flesh varieties they are all here. The People's Potatoes, Alan Wilson Special chapter by Dr Simon Bowen Paintings by Caroline Bletsis
What a great day today - so many volunteers pulling together to sell so many seed potatoes - the tables were busy most of the day with many people buying seed potatoes for the first time plus those who are experienced growers trying new seed and old.
First to sell out were the organic Sarpo potatoes - Alys Fowler had recommended them in The Guardian a couple of weeks ago - see article here - they have been bred for 40 years in Hungary and are pretty blight resistant - I will be trying a couple of them this year and was telling other folk about them while on the stall in Merrywalks.....otehr bags also went down rapidly and I hope to have the figures of our top selling varieties soon!
As always huge thanks to Chris Evans from the wonderful Dundry Nurseries - the home of the potato near Cheltenham - if you haven't got yours go there! Anyway Chris has been wonderfully supportive of this project that this year was organised by Transition Stroud and Down to Earth Coop - he has supplied most of what we needed to make this event possible. Of course Amanda Godber, Helen Royall, Jane Bown, Norah Kennedy, Tamzin Bent and others have also been great.
The day also saw a wonderful free lemon cake being handed out (made with potatoes instead of flour - you wouldn't know) and sales of the Stroud Potato Recipe book which was launched for last years event. Loads of fun and hopefully it will have raised some money for Transition and the Down to Earth Coop - it looks like the last bags of potatoes will be sold off locally in the coming weeks so check back here and we'll let you know if that does happen.
Down to Earth Cooperative and Transition Stroud members
are organising the second-ever Stroud Potato Day on Saturday 4th
February 2012 in Merrywalks Shopping Centre. We are also looking for volunteers to help on the day - it is lots of fun - if you can help please email Seb on: seb-buckton(at)transitionstroud.org
Booth said: "Stroud Potato Day is back! Last year we were amazed to
sell half a tonne of seed potatoes from a stall in Merrywalks. Well we
are going to do it again. We hope to encourage more people to grow their
own and learn about the many different varieties of potatoes. There is
also an issue of food security that we will be hearing more about as oil
prices climb and harvests suffer from the changing climate. 40% of the
food we eat is imported: if more people grow their own then we can be
less reliant on food imports from other countries."
Godber from Down to Earth Cooperative added: "There are over 450
potato varieties grown in this country with supermarkets offering very
little choice. This is a chance to grow your own. We will also have on
sale 50 remaining copies of the amazing Stroud Potato Day recipe book
which sold out last year and had to be reprinted."