Spud Special: Best harvesting conditions for a decade

Harvest is now over for most growers in some of the best conditions for a decade, however, one or two ware growers have brought back the memories of last harvest and struggled in the wetter conditions of late October.

In most cases the anticipated extra yield has not justified the inevitable loss of quality and the benefit is at best likely to be neutral, with an increase in harvesting costs of at least 25% on crops harvested earlier in the month, although it has enabled some to appreciate the investment they made in self propelled harvesters.

Condition of the crop in store is generally good, with low levels of soil in boxes also meaning a considerable increase in ventilation through those boxes compared to last season. There is the odd stock where break down of tubers from pink rot still needs to be monitored, but in most cases air movement has been adequate enough to prevent rot pockets from developing.

Growers can maximise airflow by preventing any easy paths for air back to the fridge, forcing the majority of air back through the boxes. Even 30cm gaps between rows of boxes are enough to reduce airflow through the crop by up to 40%. Where whole rows of boxes have been removed, this results in hardly any air movement through the rest of the boxes. A stack of empty boxes in the empty row can prevent this.

The unseasonably warm autumn, particularly at night, means there has been little opportunity to bring ambient store temperatures down. Time for most is short now before dormancy break and sprout development may commence due to the stress periods many crops had during season. For those who have managed to get ambient stores down to single figures, it is critical to maximise recirculation of air, as warm and humid ambient air means the opportunity to vent with outside air is few and far between at present.

There have been no issues with cold stores this season, with high tuber temperature meaning the crop is cured in less than week and pull down in most cases has been able to commence during loading. Growers should take the opportunity now to do a full storage wash up of stocks and confirm long term storage plans and identify any early grading requirement for seed. For long term storage it is essential that movement of stocks in the store is minimised to prevent condensation and sprouting. If stock is not suitable for long term storage, now is a good time to remove from long term stores, but make sure you don’t let condensation into store in the process.

The current warm wet soil conditions make it ideal for free living nematode (FLN) sampling and this opportunity should be taken. With vertical movement of some FLN being soil moisture and temperature dependent, getting a representative sample is not easy and if the opportunity is missed now there it is no guarantee there will be another as good before planting.

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