Modelling drives greater potato profits

Potato growers and suppliers are now able to predict tuber size at harvest by connecting data captured on varieties, solar radiation and canopy development.

The Potato Yield Model (PYM) is a good example of how decades of science and field experience are being made available in a user-friendly way. Now farmers can use their smartphones to collect information about planting date, emergence of the crops and images of canopy to gain details of what is happening under the soil in their field.

— Professor Mario Caccamo is Head of Crop Bioinformatics at NIAB

Potato growers and suppliers are now able to predict tuber size at harvest by connecting data captured on varieties, solar radiation and canopy development.

NIAB have collected this data over many years, to build a reliable prediction of potato yields and tuber sizes. Agrimetrics have used this data algorithm to create the NIAB-CUF Potato Yield Model app, which is transforming the ability of growers’ to meet consumer demands.

Hitherto, growers would estimate yield ahead of harvest by digging up a plant and counting the number and size distribution of tubers.

Supported by Agrimetrics and NIAB, Asda’s growers are now using smart phones to upload photos of their crop throughout the season. Intelligent software uses these images to assess the crop’s potential in relation to data from local weather stations and historical data. A yield report then helps them to make decisions earlier in the season that will reduce the risk of gluts or shortages, at farm and retail level.

At the end of the season, growers can use the data to understand how to improve management of the crop in subsequent years to produce higher marketable yields.

The project also aims to deliver a package of technical training that will enable growers to make changes to agronomic practice. Known as the Potato Crop Management Service it has been used successfully by growers and agronomists in the UK, Europe and USA.

Asda’s sourcing arm, IPL, has been trialling PYM within a WRAP project. Agrimetrics is a signatory to the WRAP Courthauld 2025 commitment which aims to deliver more sustainable food and drink production.

Read more about Agrimetrics’ work with WRAP here.

March 31, 2022
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