Spud Watch: Dry weather sees timely pre-planting fertiliser

So as another season approaches, I wonder what this one has in store for us?

John Sarup, SPUD Agronomy

I’m lucky enough to have spent the last seven weeks in New Zealand walking seed crops and meeting growers on the Canterbury Plains. Have I learned anything? Absolutely!

I’ve learned about the importance of water, clean land, long rotation, cool storage, seed management, long growing season, sunshine, easy working soils, psyllid and the abundance of agrochemicals available to help manage pests and diseases.

Psyllid importance

One might ask why psyllid is mportant. It’s the control that is important, every potato crop is protected against the pest, both seed and ware alike, the consequence?

Very little potato virus Y (PVY) in seed crops, but still there is an abundance of bees and other beneficial insects, certainly in the crops that I walked.

See also: How a Dorset farmer grows cost-effective cover crops

More on New Zealand perhaps another time, but closer to home when it comes to growing potatoes, how can we improve our management of risk and maximise the return per hectare?

Some simple cost-of-production sums, assuming nematicide use and some irrigation but excluding storage, might suggest that you will need to sell 50t/ha off the field at £135/t just to stand still.

Cutting back on input costs will have little impact, but selling 60t/ha off the field will – food for thought?

Recent dry weather has allowed applications of base fertiliser in the form of muriate of potash to be applied in timely fashion, giving the chloride time to dissipate prior to planting.

Applications of glyphosate have been made to those fields coming out of overwintered stewardship and ploughing has continued in good conditions.

Some good news on the chemical front is the arrival of the nematicide Velum Prime (fluopyram) and hopefully, the herbicide active aclonifen.

On the negative side, this is the last season of diquat use. How we manage weed control and desiccation without it will be challenging.