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Consumers to benefit from organic potato breakthrough

Shoppers throughout Europe are enjoying a greater variety of organic potatoes at more affordable prices, according to researchers who publish an international study today.

Several varieties of organic potato, suitable for a range of national palates and cuisine, are adorning supermarket shelves across the continent for the first time.

A European study, led by Nafferton Ecological Farming Group at the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, found up to ten varieties of potatoes, which can be grown without using chemical fertilisers and pesticides whilst being particularly resistant to the deadly fungal disease, blight. Most of these are newly available on supermarket shelves throughout the continent.

'Designer composts' were created as part of the project, and were shown to increase organic potato crop yields by up to 40 per cent. New and effective organic crop management strategies have also been tried and tested.

Results of the project (called Blight-MOP), which involved 13 partners in Europe, will be presented today at a conference in Newcastle hosted by the Soil Association and the University of Newcastle upon Tyne.

One of the project's main objectives was to encourage more consumers and producers to 'go organic' - currently just four per cent of shoppers buy organic vegetables.

Among the newly-available organic potato selection are two Scottish varieties, Eve Balfour and Lady Balfour, which have been bred by the Scottish Crop Research Institute and are on UK supermarket shelves. Other examples include a "purple" potato from Hungary.

Shoppers can spend up to twice as much on organic potatoes than other varieties. Organic farmers do not have powerful chemical fertilisers and pesticides in their armoury, meaning harvests are much smaller than conventional crops grown on similarly-sized areas of land.

Organic farmers' main weapons against blight - which caused wide
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Contact: Claire Jordan
press.office@ncl.ac.uk
44-191-222-7850
University of Newcastle upon Tyne
5-Jan-2005


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