12 March 1999

Seed spud chitting headaches

MANAGING potato seed is proving particularly tricky this season, warns Simon Bowen of Norfolk-based Anglian Produce.

"Some seed, particularly stocks from late lifted Scottish sources, is a little slow to break dormancy and start developing a worthwhile chit. But early harvested English stocks are producing strong sprouts."

That is leaving some growers with huge variability in store, some stock having accumulated 200-300 day degrees already, while the rest has 50 or less.

In an attempt to even up sprouting some growers are using plastic sheets to cover part crops and leaving the lights on so backward seed heats up more.

"If sprouting is variable and the target age is wrong there is a high risk of desprouting on the planter," says Dr Bowen.

"If seed is then put into a poor seed-bed the risk of upset emergence is further compounded. This is the season when first rate seed and seed-bed management will pay."

Sprouting variability comes as no surprise to Beesons Norfolk-based technical director, Tom Dixon. "A lot of seed sat in wet ground for a long time after the haulm had been burnt off and that post-maturity delay is almost certainly the cause of any variable emergence." &#42

Mild weather is causing headaches for Suffolk farm manager, Mike Fielden, of J &#42 Kemball & Sons Wantisden Hall Farms, Woodbridge, which grows 198ha (490 acres) of early and maincrop potatoes. "It is very tricky without refrigeration to keep temperatures down. Chitting went well until the third week of February, but since then our seed has been packing away too many heat units. Ambient temperatures of 11-12C mean things are beginning to run away from us. Seed is accumulating 6C a day." Here E2 Premiere goes in for early processing.