Last Monday afternoon a large number of potato growers from the Strabane and Newtownstewart areas gathered on the farm of Messrs Devine Bros, Shannony West, Douglas Bridge, for a demonstration on potatoes.
The meeting was organised by the Ministry of Agriculture and the County Executive Officer, Mr J W Wallace, acted as chairman. A panel of speakers covered various aspects of potato growing.
Mr S McKenna, Agricultural Advisory Officer for the area, introduced the subject by tracing the decline in the acreage of potatoes over the past ten years and stressed the importance of potatoes as a cash crop on many farms in Northern Ireland.
As with all farm enterprises the aim should be to obtain the maximum profit per acre. This could be achieved only by producing a high yield of saleable tubers of a variety which commends a high price per ton and by reducing the production costs, mainly the cost of labour, he said.
Members of the potato inspection staff emphasised the necessity of a high grading standard to maintain the good reputation which Northern Ireland potatoes have in foreign markets.
The sorting of the crop on the farm would be much easier where a crop relatively free from the two main tuber diseases, blight and common scab, is grown, it was pointed out.
Dr Calvert of Queen’s University, Belfast, Plant Pathology Division, continued on the disease theme. With potato blight the carry over of the disease to the following year by planting diseased tubers or by allowing dumps of diseased tubers to grow should be avoided. The standard advice of “spray early, often and thoroughly” still applies for best protection from infection, he said.
With regard to common scab, the results of several years trial with the application of sulphur to soils as a preventative measure were fully discussed.
Staff of the seed Potato Marketing Board discussed marketing problems and the market prospects for certain varieties.
The talks were followed by a lively discussion covering all aspects of potato growing. Thanks to the Devine Bros for providing the facilities for the demonstration and to the Ministry of Agriculture for organising the meeting were expressed by Mr D Beattie, County Chairman, Ulster Farmers’ Union and member of the Seed Potato Marketing Board.