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An exceptional storage season in Belgium

20 July 2018

Last year was a challenging one in terms of storage. We look back on the storage season in Belgium with Peter de Waal, Tolsma-Grisnich salesman for Zeelandic and Belgian Flanders. Many of the problems which presented themselves here were also experienced in the southern part of our own country.

Maximum drying with stoves

‘This was a particularly instructive year to get started’, says Peter. ‘Spring was very dry, and the potatoes refused to grow. Heavy rainfall then set in following this extended period of drought, causing the potatoes to grow tremendously fast. The result was that when harvested, the potatoes were of a poor storage quality. Maximum drying – with stoves whenever possible – proved necessary in October and November, and those businesses without an automatic stove had to deploy diesel stoves to achieve optimal drying of their potatoes. Fortunately, Belgium has a lot of mixed businesses with the advantage of already having stoves available’.

Some tips based on these experiences:

Tip 1

Leave the rotten potatoes on top of the heap or box so that you can monitor the drying process properly. 

Tip 2

When using several stoves, including diesel stoves, position a stove above each fan. If you only have one stove available, position it at such a height that the warmth can spread evenly across the product.

Tip 3

If you have a specific area with rotten potatoes, make sure that this area is isolated. Cover it with a tarpaulin with a hole in the centre for the installation of a fan. Using a suction technique, the fan will then ensure that the air is distributed across the potatoes.

Flooded cellars

By early December, farmers were pretty much in control of the situation. With just a few exceptions, most farmers had stopped the drying process and the computers were set at a storage temperature of 7 to 8 degrees. Unfortunately, however, some farmers had to face another setback some three weeks later around Christmas when cellars were flooded and the potatoes began to show signs of rot again. Those batches that still had to be stored for a long time were dried afresh and additional internal ventilation was deployed for short-term storage. Some farmers opted for non-stop drying, but unfortunately even they were not able to eliminate the rotting process entirely.

Tip 4

Separate potatoes that have been grown on headlands from the rest by storing them in boxes, or by separating them from potatoes that have not yet been inspected.

Although storage conditions are stable at the moment, some individual storage facilities are still set at ‘drying’.

It is noticeable that, over the past year, farmers in Belgium have become very aware of the fact that without ventilation they are not in control of their product storage, or can control it to a lesser degree. Installing an effective ventilation system has proved its worth, and those farmers who had done so have managed to keep a large proportion of their good tubers.

Proper advice pays off

It was a special first year for Peter: ‘I was able to advise many farmers on the optimal storage of their products. Farmers were clearly worried, and it makes you feel good if you then receive a thank you. After all, that’s why we’re here, and why we are committed’.

On our way to a successful new storage season which will bring new challenges!

Prospects are looking good.

If you have any concerns about your product storage – consult a storage specialist!

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