Farmers Weekly Interactive

Spud Special: Planning for next season

Harvest for most is finally finished although a few large growers are still struggling and there a number of fields that can not be lifted. While growers are now preoccupied with preserving quality in store and grading seed for export, it is worth considering next season.

This season has shown that marginal land is marginal for a reason and this is also true for virgin land. While combinable crop growers reduce costs and increase profitability by increasing scale, most potato growers need to reduce the number of marginal fields they plant instead. 

Furthermore, it has also shown that if a field has a past history or is high risk for powdery scab then there is only so much variety, and in the case of seed growers fluazinam, can do to reduce it. These fields also run the risk of potato mop top virus that has also proved problematic.

This year has really demonstrated the risk headlands pose to quality, particularly where ridges have had to be driven over to get into tramlines and pulverize the crop prior to harvest. While most growers are not prepared to leave headlands unplanted, leaving 6-8m to allow for turning would be a good compromise.   

Growers should go and inspect next year’s potential fields before they are ploughed.

Ploughing is only likely to hide rather than remove harvest wheeling ruts. This will affect yield and quality in both wet and dry seasons. Saturated land is unlikely to dry out enough to plough without causing further compaction this autumn. 

Growers should consider ploughing rented land themselves providing them with a detailed knowledge of the fields and control over all cultivations to ensure yield and quality are not compromised prior to planting. Profitable potatoes is all about attention to detail and that starts now.    

Matthew Smallwood

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