Waitrose & Partners is set to be the first major retailer to sign up to The UK Robust Potato Pledge, which will see the group move away from the use of copper-based fungicides on organic fresh potatoes in order to combat late blight Phytophthora.
The group aims to achieve this by growing and selling only resistant or 'robust' organic fresh potatoes by 2026, removing the need to use potentially harmful copper fungicides.
Waitrose Regenerative Agriculture Actions
As well as having a positive impact on biodiversity across our own operations, the initiative complements Waitrose's other leading work in regenerative agriculture and ambitions to restore biodiversity in rural settings.
Around 40% of land at the retailer's farm on the Leckford Estate is dedicated entirely to nature, and Waitrose works to remove the sale of peat and potentially harmful garden chemicals from sale in its stores and on Waitrose.com.
Marija Rompani, director of ethics and sustainability at the John Lewis Partnership said, “With COP26 on the horizon we’re constantly looking for ways to improve our impact on nature and biodiversity.
"This pledge is a great opportunity for us to help reduce our environmental impact through innovation and we hope that through this leadership, and the leadership of our producers, the rest of the industry will follow suit."
Robust Potato Pledge
By 2026, the pledge partners will jointly work towards the goal that all fresh organic potatoes grown in the UK are robust varieties, in order to make organic potato cultivation more sustainable.
Waitrose aims to set the goal of increasing the proportion of Phytophthora resistant and other robust potatoes to 100% of its entire fresh organic range within five years, provided that these varieties meet the required quality.
It will also actively promote potatoes from Phytophthora resistant varieties.
Hugh Blogg, horticultural advisor at the Soil Association, said, "It is great to see so many retailers signing up to this pledge, which we hope will help to unite supply chains in the organic potato sector.
"Innovative breeding programmes have had huge success at establishing varieties that are blight resistant, while still providing all the qualities that make potatoes a delicious choice for shoppers. The backing of key retailers to stock these products is an exciting next step in the journey towards a more resilient and sustainable potato sector.”