8 August 1997

More damp might hit potato supply

IF the damp, humid conditions continue through August and September the worst blight for 20 years could lead to a potato shortage, according to the British Potato Council.

One of the wettest Junes on record had led to stretched spraying intervals, enabling the disease to enter the crop.

Rob Burrow, British Potato Council market information manager, said although the degree of infection varied in the early crops, most of the country had been hit.

"Lincolnshire, Norfolk, Cheshire, Lancashire and Yorkshire seem to have been badly affected, but it is pretty widespread."

He added that it was still too early to say how the main crop would cope, though there was obvious concern about blight damage developing in storage. "Our advice is for farmers to monitor crops closely, look for early signs of infection, burn off part of an affected field once found, and follow regular spraying programmes."

Stephen Cobb, who farms 15.5ha (38 acres) of second earlies and main crop at Washingborough, near Lincoln, said his potatoes had been affected by blight because his regular spraying programme had been interrupted by the weather.

Mr Cobb, who grows 50% of his potatoes for the ware market, with the rest going to Golden Wonder for processing, said a full blight spray programme had stopped the disease spreading too badly. &#42

Stephen Cobbs regular spray programme was disrupted by wet weather.