Ian and Fiona Elliott, together with son and daughter Patrick and Tess, grow around 170ha of potatoes on the silty clay loams at Cresswell Barn Farm next to the Cleddau Estuary in Pembrokeshire.

  • Net margin increases around 320% for maincrop and 150% for salads respectively
  • Saleable yields up by around 25% on average over the past 3 years
  • Soil analysis system is definitely better than others we’ve used …

They bought the farm in 1977, when they grew just 20ha, and embarked on a programme of expansion soon after.

“As well as growing more of the crop, it’s always been our aim to increase yields and quality, but we wanted to achieve that without overly-depending on chemistry,” says Patrick. “We wanted to aim towards greater sustainability while maintaining quality.”

The team grows a range of maincrop varieties, including Desiree, Electra, Maris Piper and several salad varieties, such as Belana, Charlotte and Gemson. All are destined for supermarkets via Haverfordwest-based Puffin Produce.

Patrick first became interested in the OptiYield system at a Puffin Produce meeting in early 2016.

OptiYield programmes were applied with crop protection products such as blight sprays to reflect commercial practice.

Plants in the treated areas had healthier canopies and a bigger root mass, he notes. This translated into higher tuber counts, producing a very significant increase in yields. “Overall maincrop yield rose by 20-25% on average,” says Patrick. “Crops exhibited greater vigour and disease resistance, as well as being less stressed.

“We also observed better skin quality and more even distribution of tuber size, which has helped our saleable yields go up by around 25% on average over the past 3 years.

“The effect on the bottom line was staggering, particularly last season, which was very dry. We have little or no access to irrigation, and OptiYield greatly improved crop growth and maintained vigour and canopy.

“Overall, following on from previous years, for 2018 we estimate our net margin increases around 320% for maincrop and 150% for salads respectively in what was a very low rainfall, high-stress year.”

OptiYield’s unique range of biostimulants and microbials are now standard inputs across much of the Elliott’s potato area.

“All maincrop will be treated with OptiYield Complete and we’ll probably use OptiYield Bioactive on most salad crops this season,” says Patrick.

“The strength of OptiYield is the customised, programmed approach tailored to our needs, and those of each variety. The soil analysis system is definitely better than others we’ve used. Rather than simple analysis values, the availability interpretation has proved to be significantly more valuable, not only for major nutrients but also for minor and micronutrients,” he comments.

“We also like the fact that Emerald Research is involved closely with a variety of research centres including Bangor and Aberystwyth Universities, as well as other organisations overseas, which ensures the programme is updated as necessary to reflect current thinking.”