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Richard Hackett: ‘Ireland’s potato growers need a new brand and storage flexibility to cut carbon footprint’

Agronomist Richard Hackett writes in a column in the Farming section of Independent: “We are awaiting the publication of the new strategy document to map a path for the Irish agricultural industry as it heads towards 2030. While it is still in development, one area that will be a top priority is the need for all sectors to reduce the carbon footprint of their production systems.”

Mr Hackett writes that in the broadest terms, reducing carbon footprint means reducing energy use, diesel use and fertiliser use. What can we do in the potato sector to achieve these aims? he asks.

He goes on to say that “we have got ourselves in a position where one variety, harvested over a two-month period, supplies practically the entire ware market for 12 months of the year.

“So for 10 months of the year, the bulk of the ware potato crop has to be stored in refrigerators to suppress sprouting and, more importantly, to control skin blemishes. In a mild climate like ours this can be difficult. Over a warm summer, with potatoes stored until August, it’s a huge consumer of energy, so maybe we need to look at how we supply potatoes.

“No other crop has such a dependence on one variety as the ware potato sector. Growers of carrots, cabbage, cauliflowers, processing potatoes all have a range of varieties to choose from for their prevailing conditions. They can pick or drop varieties as they deem suitable for their requirements.

Why can’t we market a brand of potatoes, not on the basis of variety, but on the basis of quality and the reduced energy that goes into their supply?

We can have varieties that are very early maturing, second early, main crop and very late main crop all marketed under the one brand. Early and second early could be sold ex-field with no storage from June until September/ October.

Source: Independent. Read the full column here
Photo: One variety, harvested over a two-month period, supplies practically the entire ware market for 12 months of the year, says Richard Hackett | Damien Eagers
Note: Richard Hackett is an agronomist based in north Co Dublin and is a member of the ITCA and ACA

Lukie Pieterse, Editor and Publisher of Potato News Today

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