Potato growers report good planting progress

Main crop potato planting is well under way across the UK, with many areas nearing completion.

Rob Burrow of the British Potato Council says: “Despite a slow start, due to low soil temperatures in some areas, planting has gone very well and has been problem free for most producers.”

The latest reports from the council note good progress across all regions. The south has experienced favourable conditions, but some heavier soils have been slow to dry out with a few growers being delayed by low soil temperatures.

The west and midlands have a similar story, although some producers have had the added complication of delays in seed delivery. The east has progressed quickly, with a few growers commenting on the risk of a late frost, and the north and Scotland are also making good progress.

Shropshire producer, Richard Solari, has had a good run, with almost 75 % of his 120ha crop already in the ground. He has opted for several varieties this year, including Shepody and Innovator under contract for McCain, but is also experimenting with a few acres of Maritiema, a Dutch variant of Maris Piper.

His main concern for the forthcoming season is that favourable conditions may increase supply which might impact on price. He has already begun pre-emergence spraying and is aiming to complete this in the next 2-3 weeks.

Suffolk grower, James Foskett, has sown 160 of his 345ha crop and says: “It is a far cry from the dismal conditions of last year. Almost the entire crop has received a pre emergent and many varieties including King Edward and Marfona are showing well under the fleece.”

David Nelson, field director for processors Branston agrees: “Good soil conditions and the earliest planting for several years has created a promising start for the crop,” he said. The only downside he could see was that the early start would put pressure on an early harvest to maintain quality.

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