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PLANTING OF early potatoes is making good progress thanks to generally dry conditions over recent weeks, according to latest reports.

In total, just over 7,000ha has been planted to date – slightly above the same time last year, said the British Potato Council‘s (BPC) Rob Burrow.

While planting on colder, heavier soils in northern areas is unlikely to start before mid April, elsewhere good progress is being made in favourable conditions, he said

“Planting progress in Shropshire and Cheshire has been rapid over recent days and in Kent a lot of the first early planting is now finished.”

Soils have been very dry for Richard Thomas who grows around 100ha (250 acres) of early potatoes near Lands End in Cornwall.

“It‘s almost as dry as I‘ve known it. We‘re about 80% through planting, which is comfortably where we might expect to be for this time of year,” he said.

But, a spell of frosty weather over a fortnight ago set back December-sown crops under plastic and also scorched many open plantings, he noted. “Crops are about 7-10 days behind last year as a result.”

This was acknowledged by Mr Burrow, who said earlier frosts had set back many of the pre-Christmas plantings in the southwest by up to two weeks.

“But with recent milder weather, crops are now recovering quite well,” he added.

Given favourable weather conditions and crop growth, Mr Thomas hopes to begin lifting in early May.