Blight – the despair of gardeners, allotmenters and farmers alike
Blight can decimate an entire crop and in a matter of days your hard work can be completely inedible, rotting away before your eyes. You can feel the despair in a very small way that faced the rural communities during the potato famine.
According to The Royal Horticultural Society RHS, Potato and tomato blight, also known as late blight, attacks the foliage and fruit or tubers of tomatoes and potatoes, causing rotting. It is most common in wet weather. Blight is a disease caused by a fungus-like organism that spreads rapidly in the foliage and tubers or fruit of potatoes and tomatoes in wet weather, causing collapse and decay.
We are asked quite frequently what we do in the summer and the answer to that is a lot of research for our breeding programme. The annual Potatoes in Practice showcases new potato varieties and breeders actually long for a blighty season so they can show off how blight resistant new varieties are as well as how they look and taste. Check the hashtag #potatoesinpractice on twitter for some technical potato chat!
As with any industry, research and development is key, and the UK Seed Potato industry is no exception and is always progressing. We at Skea Organics and Potato House are proud to be involved in this, and this year we hosted some organic potato demonstrations with several of the leading names in the industry involved. Some known varieties and other new ones were grown organically.
Many people like to grow organic in their gardens and allotments as they know that these varieties are hardy and thrive without chemical intervention. Many blight-resistant varieties can show off their credentials at these trials. There were also a few “new potato” varieties here.
This drone picture shows our trial plots – the different varieties can be seen by the different leaf colouring and also how some are looking healthy while their neighbours have completely succumbed to blight.
Once a new variety has come this far it is then subjected to many more tests over several years by the independent trial by the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board AHDB when it is given an official score. We have the results of this and other tests for each of our varieties in the description tab on the variety page.
When we sell blight resistant potatoes we really do mean that they have had some serious testing!
Please note that the word is resistant not proof and in extremely severe cases these potatoes may get still get blight.
Blight resistant potatoes - from a customer point of view
We have many delighted customers who share their potato journey with us on social media. The joy when their potatoes do not have blight in a blighty year is obvious. These pictures are from Jo Horsley – Beemused on twitter
“Sarpo Mira still going strong in physical contact with blighted potatoes”
Blight tends to hit in the late summer and so another way of avoiding blight is to grow earlies planted in March/April depending where you are. These would take around 100 days to mature and so hopefully avoiding blight. However main crops store for much longer and buying blight resistant potatoes could be key in the jigsaw that is growing your own potatoes.
Tell us your stories about avoiding blight here or on our social media. And please, if you have bought varieties from us (blight-resistant or not), leave a review.