POTATO growers have been warned to keep an eye on crops as blight-favouring conditions sweep across the UK.

The season‘s first full Smith periods, that herald ideal conditions for the disease to thrive, were announced by internet-based blight warning service BlightWatch.

The potatocrop.com service recorded 23 full and 120 near Smith periods over the weekend (May 8-9).

“This year the first significant batch [of full Smith periods] has occurred earlier in Kent up through Nottinghamshire through to the Mersey,” said Jo Palmer who edits the web site.

Last year the first eight blight outbreaks were confirmed by the British Potato Council “Fight Against Blight” at the end of May.

BlightWatch is a free web-based service which uses weather records from over 200 meteorological stations to bring potato growers a daily localised update on Smith periods.