6 November 1998

Store only dry potato crops now

DRYING is number one call for potato store managers as wet weather continues to frustrate lifting, says Adrian Cunnington of Sutton Bridge Experimental Unit.

"There is a lot of confusion over what to do. But drying has got to be the priority even if it means reducing temperatures." Some growers, especially those with processing crops, have backed off from ventilating stores in recent cooler weather, he notes. "But first and foremost the need is to get crops dried and keep them dry."

Eastern growers have only 20% of crops left to harvest, he estimates. "But in the north and west they are still way behind."

Avoid storing rained-on potatoes, especially those going into bulk stores, he advises. "They could be the trigger for a lot of problems later on."

Curing to heal damage and minimise disease is next key need, greatest late in the season, he adds. "Curing needs warm relatively dry conditions, ideally 12-15C for 10 days at 90% humidity." But without ventilation to remove condensation from respiring tubers, disease will be encouraged. "Use air at a similar temperature to the crop if it is available." Lower temperatures may extend the curing period.

Growers unable to ventilate should seriously consider whether to put wet crops into store at all, suggests Mr Cunnington.