Understanding how potatoes grow determines how to grow potatoes

The Cambridge University Potato Growers Research Association (CUPGRA) is a charitable association of potato growers, agronomists, packers, processors and other stakeholders in the supply-chain who value independent, high-quality research.

It promotes the interchange of scientific research and field practice for innovative, sound commercial production of potatoes through its association with NIAB. This close involvement with NIAB researchers and specialists enables CUPGRA members to rapidly transfer new knowledge into practice for commercial advantage.

Annual Cambridge Potato Conference 2022

13-14 December 2022
Robinson College, Cambridge

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Communication of research work

  • NIAB is closely connected to growers through member days, seminars, overseas study tours and conferences for CUPGRA members
  • Current trials reflect the effects of changes in practice which vary with site and business objective
  • Contact with the research scientists and other CUPGRA members at meetings and trial sites enables members to gauge for themselves what changes in practice they may adopt to improve their own business
  • This interaction is unique and can provide invaluable information for improving potato production
  • As there is no ‘universal panacea’ to the problems of potato production, growers who have access to research related to their problems are able to make better management decisions
  • A report of all the research results is produced annually and key research papers are circulated to CUPGRA members when publish.

CUPGRA Bibliography

Research programme

The research is based on greater understanding of:

  • Growth, development and health of the potato plant
  • Yield and marketable yield improvements
  • Yield modelling and prediction
  • The formation and growth of tubers, especially in relation to size, skin physiology and dry-matter content
  • Nutrient and water requirements
  • Soil management and cultivations
  • The influence of storage conditions on tuber physiology and disease ingress
  • Seed production systems
  • Variety-specific agronomy
  • Management of pests and diseases.

Promotion of research

  • Delivering rapid application of research results on growers’ farms
  • Supporting growers’ research needs
  • Strong collaboration with other research institutions and packing, processing, seed and agrochemical companies
  • Securing finance for potato research at NIAB
  • Sponsoring PhD studentships at the University of Cambridge and the Crop Science Centre.

Grower testimonials

“Unique, impartial, without being dependent upon commercial interests, and an enormously valuable source of data and advice which allows scientists to pursue projects without interference, neither financial nor intellectual. Thinking outside the box is what CUPGRA is very good at. Desiccating haulm to achieve good skin finish and, in particular, to combat black dot, takes far longer with varieties that produce large quantities of it."
John Chinn, Cobrey Farms, Herefordshire

“I can’t remember what made us join, but never once have we considered leaving. Over and again trials have been undertaken, we’ve followed the results, improved production and reduced costs. For example, we have cut nitrogen and are still doing so. We haven’t used phosphate for years and overall our fertiliser use is very modest. We have the ultimate trust that we are being given the correct – and unbiased – information. The work is extremely rigorous and carried out under proper scientific terms”.
Tim Jolly, WO & PO Jolly, Norfolk

“The effort and time put into the research has been massive. A farmer attempting anything like that on a field scale is never going to be able to match it. Independent research is the lifeblood of successful farming, and that is what we get from the association, as well as good sensible data, which is not blighted by commercial interests. We particularly value the help we get in interpreting results. Work rates have improved and destoning and cultivation is quicker and easier with the consequent saving on costs and field operations”.
Tom Stevenson, GA Stevenson Ltd, Essex