Harvest 2004: Halfway for spuds

CLOSE MONITORING of potato stores will be more important than ever this season, growers have been advised.

With almost half the national crop now harvested, concerns are mounting over the impact the wet August will have on storage quality this season, according to the British Potato Council (BPC).

“There is still a lot of doubt over how long crops might keep. Watching stores will be vital this year,” said the BPC‘s Rob Burrow.

A lot of quality problems have shown up already this year – notably blight and slug damage, he said.

But we must wait to see what effect the biggest influence on quality – the wet August – will have on crops in store, he added.

Generally good conditions over the past week have allowed steady lifting progress, with harvest almost 50% complete, well down on the 65% clearance this time last year, he said.

“Some areas are still very wet – any more rain will make things very difficult.”

There are significant variations in soil conditions, he noted, with some growers in the east reporting problems with dry clods bruising crops, while soil further north and west remains near saturation.

Shropshire farmer Sandy Walker said conditions on his farm near Telford were almost ideal, but acknowledged this was probably not true across the country.

He has almost finished harvesting 100 ha (250 acres) of potatoes and said everything had generally gone “quite well”.

Yields proved to be variable, but there were no real quality concerns, apart from some slug damage in the fields still to be harvested.

“We‘ve been quite lucky – most of the heavy rain seemed to avoid us.

“The biggest problem is that it‘s quite difficult to grade crops, due to a large amount of clods in the soil,” he added.