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The Blight of Allotments
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michael


Posts: 3,210
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #1
16-10-2012 01:48 PM

Allotment owners damaging depleted potato crops
Those smug self-righteous people who spend all their spare time on public land growing vegetables for their own private consumption are now to blame for the worst potato harvest in the British Isles for 250 years. At least that is what the papers reported this morning.

But I can't help thinking...
"...it would be preferable if people bought healthy, well-produced potatoes from their retailer, rather than grow their own", says the spokesman for the Potato Council, an organisation "committed to supporting the British potato industry". So preferable for whom; for retailers, for consumers who will have to pay more, or for potato farmers?

(The Potato Council website shows no outbreaks of blight in most of London and North-East Kent.)

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brian


Posts: 2,002
Joined: Apr 2005
Post: #2
16-10-2012 02:35 PM

I think I am in agreement with Michael. A rare occurance.

Allotment owners should be applauded for the food they grow which hopefully reduces our big dependence on imported food.

If there are any dangers with blight then they should be educated.

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Tim Lund


Posts: 255
Joined: Apr 2008
Post: #3
16-10-2012 05:41 PM

Michael Wrote:
So preferable for whom; for retailers, for consumers who will have to pay more, or for potato farmers?


Good question, to which the answer has to be based on some overall assessment of the public good, which I'd suggest would mean having more food at affordable prices for people to eat, regardless of any 'smug self-righteous' interest group.

Perhaps we could have a similar test for housing policies.

This post was last modified: 16-10-2012 05:44 PM by Tim Lund.

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Perryman


Posts: 809
Joined: Dec 2006
Post: #4
16-10-2012 05:45 PM

The blight is clearly being spread by badgers. Kill! Kill!

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michael


Posts: 3,210
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #5
16-10-2012 08:10 PM

Probably best not to mention the housing shortage in London when talking about allotments.

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Tim Lund


Posts: 255
Joined: Apr 2008
Post: #6
16-10-2012 09:14 PM

Michael - you should know perfectly well what my views are on allotments - if people want them, let there be allotments. We need greater housing densities - probably not that much more - so we have a choice between:

1. building over existing open space, such as allotments
2. building overbearing developments on what few sites can be found via the planning system, e.g. the Catford Tavern, etc
3. allowing the large amount of existing residential land to be redeveloped with an extra storey

3 is my preferred choice. What is yours? Why do you insist on alluding to 1?

This post was last modified: 16-10-2012 09:15 PM by Tim Lund.

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jgdoherty


Posts: 285
Joined: Nov 2007
Post: #7
17-10-2012 08:00 AM

The potato growing and marketing industry is huge in the UK.

It is so large that in earlier this year a Sainsburys manager in their HQ was convicted of receiving bribes from growers in the order of 5m.

This resulted in overcharges (ultimately to us the retail customers) of over 9m. Have not seen any evidence of Sainsburys or the Potato Council making any efort to reimburse the customers for the fraud.

Michael is right to question as to who would be the real beneficiaries of their statement "it would be preferable........".

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IWereAbsolutelyFuming


Posts: 531
Joined: Oct 2007
Post: #8
17-10-2012 08:24 AM

The real blight on allotments this last growing season has been theft.

The site I'm a holder on has had vast amount of stuff stolen this year, ranging from all the shared wheelbarrows to individual plotholder's equipment - hundreds of pounds worth of stuff. More Infuriating though is the theft of produce. There are experienced plot holders who have had almost their entire harvest taken (and not by the local wildlife) throughout the season. I'm lucky, my efforts have been pretty poor this year so my plot hasn't attracted the thieves but for those that spend a vast amount of time and effort, not to mention money, working their plot this is soul destroying.

As for my spuds, they were so bad this year I only wish they could have got far enough to be candidates to spread blight to the commercial growers of dulwich and Forest Hill...

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steveb


Posts: 113
Joined: Nov 2007
Post: #9
17-10-2012 10:50 AM

The irony of this story is that at the begining of the year when we were facing a drought, the potato growers were predicting a bad harvest due to lack of rain. Then the weather changed.

Blight is asociated with damp humid conditions, so wet summers are the worst conditions for it. Blaming amateur growers is like the captain of the titanic blaming passengers who took ice in their drinks.

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Tim Lund


Posts: 255
Joined: Apr 2008
Post: #10
17-10-2012 01:23 PM

Industry associations exist to serve their members' interests, but I can't see why they should be criticised in this case.

According to the FAO, there were 6,169,000 tonnes grown in the UK in 2005. According to Wikipedia

Quote:
In 2008 The Guardian reported that 330,000 people held an allotment

If the average such allotment holder had a similar success to me, and lifted 20kg (I just weighed them), that would be about 1% of the commercial crop. I really do not think they have anything to fear from this - in fact, they are likely to benefit from increased interest in the different varieties of potato out there - I notice we see more in shops now.

How much more likely is it that this is a real issue? Why otherwise would two national organisations chose to work with the Potato Council

Quote:
The Potato Council is working with the Royal Horticultural Society and the National Society of Allotment and Leisure Gardeners (NSALG) to produce a special blight fact sheet and educate gardeners about the disease.


Do those automatically attaching the Potato Council not know that there are significant variations in blight resistance? In the best known case of potato harvest failure - the Irish Famine - the reliance on one particular blight susceptible variety was a major factor, as well as the weather. It's not unreasonable to suppose that older 'heritage' varieties are more vulnerable - it could well have been part of why they aren't grown so much.

This post was last modified: 17-10-2012 01:29 PM by Tim Lund.

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michael


Posts: 3,210
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #11
17-10-2012 02:13 PM

Mr Potato Head Wrote:
"...it would be preferable if people bought healthy, well-produced potatoes from their retailer, rather than grow their own"


Mr Lund Wrote:
I can't see why they should be criticised in this case.


So you agree with the Potato Council that it would be preferable for you to lift 20kg from Tesco rather than your allotment? I would have expected you to have joined me in criticising such a statement.

This year potato farmers have been hit hard, with a reduction in production by about 5%, so I'm sure they would be happy to gain an extra 1% next year. Every little helps.

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Tim Lund


Posts: 255
Joined: Apr 2008
Post: #12
17-10-2012 04:06 PM

I'm quite prepared to admit that the Potato Council is less imaginative than it could be in how it promotes its product, but that fact that I might, with you, disagree with something it says isn't enough for me to think they are spreading mendacious scare stories when they are likely to be better informed than me - probably better informed even than Michael - about the science, and that I do know that potato blight is a persistent threat to the crop. It's why the industry and government finance a fair bit of research into it.

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michael


Posts: 3,210
Joined: Mar 2005
Post: #13
17-10-2012 04:54 PM

That's fair enough. I assume you will follow his sagely advice and kill off any potatoes you see on local allotments to reduce the potential for blight in the future.

The extinction of badgers in the British Isles is also recommended by the farming community (despite inconclusive scientific evidence), but as always we should bow to their superiour knowledge of the natural world, just as we did when they decided to start feeding meat to herbivores. I hope you'll excuse a little scepticism from me.

As for the promotion of potato products, I think they have done a fantastic job. Here is my favourite recent campaign http://youtu.be/bPsY_nhTtxg

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Erekose


Posts: 550
Joined: May 2010
Post: #14
17-10-2012 05:17 PM

Oddly I had far less blight on my allotment grown potato crop this year.....maybe I picked the right varities this time? Even the Desire died back before the blight appeared. I did however lose all my outdoor Tomatoes to late blight this year. Will the Potato marketing board also start calling for all amateur Tomato growing to be banned?

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Tim Lund


Posts: 255
Joined: Apr 2008
Post: #15
17-10-2012 07:29 PM

Allotment holders and other gardeners do generally follow official guidance, e.g. on what chemicals can be used, and I would unhesitatingly refrain from planting blight liable varieties if so guided where it risked the commercial interests of farmers, and also the vast majority of the public uninterested or unable to grow their own. What would you do?

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Tim Lund


Posts: 255
Joined: Apr 2008
Post: #16
17-10-2012 07:33 PM

And Michael, you're missed on the Sydenham Town Forum, where you might find I feel the same about the badger cull, but strictly for scientific reasons, not some foolish identification with or against farmers or business

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Tim Lund


Posts: 255
Joined: Apr 2008
Post: #17
17-10-2012 09:21 PM

Sorry - that last post was from a mobile on the way back from an allotments training meeting in Bromley, and I'm not so great on posting links from my phone. So here's what you missed

Quote:
The Tories it seems have just decided to ignore science when it runs up against the prejudices of the shires on the matter of badger culls.

Back in 2009, Gordon Brown and Alan Johnson equally felt that political reality trumps nature when they sacked David Nutt.

As the dying double Physics Nobel Laureate, Dick Feynmann wrote in his report on the Challenger distaster

Quote:
reality must take precedence over public relations, for nature cannot be fooled

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