Spud Watch: Consider cutting back on cultivations

The dust has been flying, with many growers starting to establish 2019’s ware and processing potato crops up and down Scotland.

However, at the time of writing (5 April) rain is hammering off the kitchen window. Between 10 and 40mm has been recorded north of the border in the past three days.

Ben Lowe

Ben Lowe

The true art this year seems to be avoiding the temptation to over-cultivate, with many soils being in great order.

Missing an extra pass with the cultivator before ridging, leaving the bed buster in the shed, only bed-tilling certain soils and reducing stone separator depth should all be considered.

See also: How to stop sprouting in potato stores without CIPC

The results will be clear in terms of soil erosion, soil structure, skin finish and how the crop is lifted throughout the season. The benefit of hindsight will show us if these decisions were correct.  

In this busy planting period it is easy for seed management to be an afterthought. Whether delivered on farm or brought out of stores it requires attention to detail.

The main target is to avoid any condensation forming on the tubers for extended periods – seed delivered in polyprop bags or removed from a cold store is at particular risk.  

Seed should be placed in good-quality boxes in a well-ventilated location before planting to reduce the chance of black leg and soft rots.

Trailer covers and polythene covers while transporting can also promote poor ventilation and increase the chance of moisture forming on seed tubes.

Seed and salad crops are still to be established, with growers targeting warmer soil temperatures. An average soil temperature of 70C-plus is key to reducing risk of rhizoctonia and other skin finish diseases.

For all crops, quality seed choice is obviously essential as well as chemical control focusing on tuber and soil.

Seed and salad growers largely remain patient, waiting for warmer soil temperatures before planting begins, with a far shorter growing season this is a practical option and wise move.