Another year and more challenges for the potato industry to face, if it’s not reduced fresh consumption it’s the loss of crucial actives such as methiocarb, no doubt metaldehyde will be next on the list and then where does that leave the most popular variety grown, Maris Piper?

Planting in Yorkshire has got off to a steady start this year, with recent weather conditions not helping soils dry once moved. Growers in Cheshire did get off to a good start during the first three weeks of March, with soil conditions after grass particularly good. I have also been extremely impressed with the soil conditions behind mustard/radish green manure crops. These were established to mop up nutrients, reduce erosion and limit weed growth. I do get frustrated when I see stubbles, just left to green up over winter, that are full of groundsel and chickweed known to provide a reservoir of tobacco rattle virus (TRV) inoculum to free living nematodes. I hope that I have got my nitrogen management right and I don’t get too much haulm development.

Soil temperatures are certainly much warmer than they have been at this time of year for at least the last couple of years’, it has only taken three weeks for the first of my chitted Amora crops to start emerging. Herbicides have been targeted at moist ridges, it is always worth remembering that actives such as prosulfocarb (Defy) and pendamethalin (Stomp) are not that soluble, so moisture is needed to get the most out of them. Metribuzin (Sencorex) is quite soluble and is a good mix partner with either of the above and there is now a little more experience with some of the newer varieties, but if in doubt check with the manufacturer.

Seed quality is generally very good, although there is some black scurf evident on some stocks. Wherever I see black scurf on seed tubers I recommend treating with pencycuron (Monceren DS) or flutolanil (RhiNo). Seed also seems to be planting further than normal, so it is well worthwhile double checking tuber counts so that spacing and density can be fine-tuned.

Throughout the winter I have been encouraging my clients who use nematicides to make sure that they apply them properly and to get the most out of them. Potato cyst nematode (PCN) is a major problem and unless we really get a grip of soil sampling, interpretation of results, nematicide application and management with the use of resistant/tolerant varieties we will be fighting a losing battle.