Most, if not all crops, have now been harvested with some huge yields reported. Quality is variable with the main challenge ahead probably marketing and moving the crop.
I am hearing reports of some store breakdown, particularly where harvest into store continued during the very hot and dry weather in September. The first ground frost of the autumn on 20 October resulted in tuber temperatures dropping 3-4C almost overnight.
This resulted in a massive increase in bruising levels in a number of varieties. Therefore, if you have not already sampled your stores for quality I suggest you do so, paying particular attention to the areas of store that were loaded around that date.
My thoughts are now starting to focus on next year and field selection. Getting soil analysed for nutrients, potato cyst nematode (PCN) and free living nematodes (FLN) is a priority so that key decisions can be made on fertiliser, nematicide application and variety choice.
Autumn is the best time for FLN sampling, provided the soil is moist. Free living nematodes, particularly trichodorids, will migrate up and down the soil profile according to soil moisture availability so there is little benefit in sampling when the top soil is dry or soil temperatures are below 5-6 0C.
For risk management if you are growing TRV-susceptible varieties or new varieties, then as well as FLN soil counts, presence of TRV should also be tested. I like to walk next year’s fields now to look at the weed spectrum, it is important to remember that certain weeds can, if present, provide a host for certain pests and diseases, such as TRV (Spraing).
It is also a good time to assess fields for compaction and to plan cultivations. There is a strong case for taking charge of all cultivation operations on rented land to ensure tractors are only on the land when it is not causing damage to soil structure. There is also a considerable benefit to potato rooting by ploughing on the land rather than in furrow, worth considering if possible.
Finally, remember that profitable potato enterprises are all about attention to detail.