POTATO LIFTING made good progress in many areas last week and is now similar to last year, despite being a week behind earlier in the season, reports the British Potato Council.

Almost 40% of the national crop has been lifted (Sep 23), with “near ideal” conditions in most areas, said the BPC’s Denis Alder.

“A lot of growers have now started and quality generally seems to be OK, although yields are a little down on last year.” Most crops lifted so far have gone straight to market, as conditions are still slightly too warm for crops to go into store, he said.

There are a few reports of common scab and some growers – particularly in the west – are holding off lifting as they wait for crops to bulk up after dry weather earlier in the season.

But dry soil and increased risk of bruising has hampered progress in eastern parts of Scotland, said Thistle Agronomy’s Douglas Bain.

Few ware crops have been lifted so far, although some progress is being made with seed potatoes, for which bruising is less of a concern, he said.

“This year is more akin to 2003 when many growers paid the price for lifting when it was very dry. Many have learnt their lesson and are more reluctant to lift while soil remains dry.”

Some common scab is being seen in crops where summer irrigation was insufficient – particularly in Maris Piper, he said.

While tuber numbers are high, most are quite small, so yields could be down 15-20% on unirrigated land and there is likely to be a smaller penalty on irrigated land, he suggested.

“A lot of ware crops have only been burnt down in the last three to four weeks, so skin set is just about there – there’s a long way to go yet,” he concluded.