Farmer Focus: Potato yield variation not as predicted

We are pretty much caught up on crop work barring a few tail-end jobs. It has been a marvellous autumn in many respects, allowing steady progress with only the odd interruption for rain.

Newly established cereal crops look in good shape and well placed to face whatever the winter throws at them. We will see whether ‘well sown is half grown’ comes true next harvest.

Potato harvest finished up about where I expected it to be, down about 30% compared with our average.

See also: 6 ways to improve wheat establishment and yields

However, with an increased area planted this year we should be able to meet our commitments, we just won’t be looking for so many new customers.

Value of muck

Although yields are down there has been considerable variation, not all of which was predictable. The lift on some of what I consider to be our drier land situated near the coast surprised me.

It seems that the occasional sea mists blowing made enough difference to keep the crop growing along steadily.

We have also seen some irrigated crops yield less than some non-watered ones, although this was the year where overall having irrigation facilities proved a godsend.

Anything that received organic matter pre-planting proved the value of having muck available. It was the year that confirmed land in good heart pays dividends.

The arable team are settling into a slightly different routine catching up with maintenance, holidays and training.

All these things together, combined with a significant amount of hedge trimming to do on land destined for spring crops, will mean there is never a dull day.

I have, at long last, had my basic payment queries from 2016 and 2017 answered by the Rural Payments Agency. It does seem like they have sorted the issues around missing entitlements, recalculated what was owing and paid up the shortfall.

They also kindly sent me an email to explain what they had found. That was good until I tried reading it and realised that the entire message was made up of cut and pasted comments from along the process. It made absolutely no sense; am I surprised?