9 November 2001

Potato harvest nearly home

RELIEF to have finished or to have the end in sight was the mood amongst potato growers earlier this week.

"Lifting has taken twice as long as it should and has been a struggle since day one – but we finished last Friday," says Trevor Horsnell from Chelmsford, Essex.

His 32ha (80 acres) of mainly Estima and Desiree off heavy-clay loam have better than expected skin finish and yields, considering nothing was planted until May.

Nationally, BPCs Rob Burrow estimated 95% was cleared by Monday but cold weather is raising bruising and sugar content concerns for those with crop left to lift. Most is on heavy land in East Anglia and the southeast.

"Another fine week or so should see the end of it." In contrast, even at Christmas last year, there was still 13% in the ground, he comments.

MBM agronomist Tim Berry suggests growers make the most of the cooler conditions to get ambient store temperatures down. The potential for breakdown is high. "Get plenty of air through and keep them dry."

Where growers are still lifting beware of bruising, he adds.

But Essex-based grower Brian Halls says he cant afford to wait with 8ha of Desiree and Ambo left on heavy chalky boulder clay. "Weve got to get them in."

On Monday he had three harvesters on the go and hoped to be finish by the end of the week. "The last two times I grew potatoes on this field I said never again. This time I mean it," he says ruefully. &#42

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POTATO PROGRESS

* 95% cleared by Monday.

* Cool weather mixed blessing.

* Helpful for ambient stores.

* Beware bruising and sugars.