Planting in Cheshire got off to a flying start at the end of February and early March. Soil conditions were exceptionally good with chitted first earlies, covered with fleece, emerging rapidly.

 

Even planting in Lancashire got off to a relatively early start. Most growers in Yorkshire and the Borders made a start during the third week of March, planting in to very good soil conditions.

 

April seems to have given us all a reality check with much-needed rain and cold weather slowing things down. Soil temperatures have plummeted with sprouts hardly moving over the past two weeks and there has only been a little root development.

Patience will now be key with cultivations, particularly in showery conditions. Soil will need to be moved to help dry it and the last thing you want is a heavy shower on it again afterwards.

 

With the potential of delayed emergence, due to the cooler temperatures, stolon pruning caused by Rhizoctonia may become an issue, although a number of growers this year have started to use azoxystrobin in furrow on early plantings and for Rhizoctonia susceptible varieties.

 

Other than the odd exception seed quality has been better than expected, particularly when you consider the number of seed crops in Scotland that were downgraded due to blackleg last year.

 

It is worth remembering that blackleg is not just a seed grower issue as a lot depends on how the seed is managed after delivery. For those growers who have seed sitting in bags waiting to plant and are delayed due to the weather, I would encourage them to decant it into CIPC-free boxes, ventilate and keep cool. I would not recommend running anything over a roller table or grader as any bacterial and fungal inoculum may spread easily on to other tubers.

 

Soon attention will be drawn towards herbicide choice. It’s always a challenge, but at least we are likely to have some moisture to help with weed germination and residual herbicide activity.