Since last month we’ve seen it all up in the north of Scotland with snow falling, strong northerly winds, low temperatures and not much in the way of spring like weather until very recently. This hampered growers trying to get potatoes in the ground to the extent that we are running around 10 days later than usual.

Growers have been prepared to wait and there’s been a flurry of activity in the last week, but the patience has paid off with soil conditions mainly being described as good and this has allowed rapid progress. There are still tricky parts in some fields that are wet.

The very earliest planted crops up here are only just reaching a point where weed control is needed. Spray plans will include diquat and carfentrazone to control emerged weeds, combined with residuals such as linuron, metribuzin and specialist products such as Artist (flufenacet + metribuzin) being used where annual meadow grass is a concern.

There will also be some Soleto (metobromuron) used to fill in the slot that linuron is going to leave as it is phased out over the next couple of years. The recent news that diquat could potentially be lost as an active has prompted an industry wide response to emphasize to the legislating authorities the importance of this active ingredient to potato growers.

Weed control in potato crops could stretch growers’ sprayer capacity this season – planting mature seed into soils that are now warming will allow quick emergence. Combined with cereal crops that are late and going to move through growth stages rapidly, it will mean sprayer operators will be busy and hoping the weather cooperates.

The next task ahead is to get in-field weather stations up and running to provide early indications of the blight pressure and allow growers to get a full picture on what the risk is in their locality.