23 October 1998

Anxious start, good overall

AFTER an anxious start in the west, potatoes have pleased Steven Mackintosh this season. And with just 17ha (42 acres) out of 280 (692) left to lift at Homme Farm, Ross-on-Wye, he is content with overall performance.

Earlies planting began in the third week of February. But six-week delays due to bad weather put a question mark over results for much of the crop, some of which was not planted until May. In the end good seed-beds helped and yields and quality turned out well.

50ha (124 acres) of green-top lifted Pentland Javelin, Dundrod and Fambo for the chipping bag trade, and then Maris Piper for the same market were all gone by the end of July.

Maris Peer, Carlingford and Charlotte lifted at the end of August for the loose-skinned punnet trade ran a bit light at 28t/ha (11t/acre). "But they were good quality," says Mr Mackintosh.

Lady Rosetta for crisping off unirrigated light land was also slightly down on last year at about 38t/ha (15t/acre). The 1000t crisping contract crop also had to be washed, with hired equipment, for the first time. Fortunately, says Mr Mackintosh, there were no rejections using the new style rear-opening containers which are flumed out at the factory. "They are OK to load but I am not sure how we would have unloaded them."

The bulk of the main crop, Estima with some Nadine and more Maris Piper for cold storage bakers and pre-packing, did not go in until May but grew well, increased use of neutron probes helping make best use of water. "We have averaged 49t/ha over 45mm which is up on our average."

A tight systemic-based fungicide programme with an extra tin spray kept blight well at bay.

Recently, with sunshine overhead and plenty of moisture in the soil, lifting conditions have been ideal. "For the capital invested it has been a rewarding year. It has come good at last."