Spud Special: Elements winning by knockout

Driving home on Friday night seeing growers trying to harvest potatoes in driving snow kind of summed up the frustration and desperation of this years growing season – a fight between the elements and the grower, with the elements winning by a knock out for contracted crops and awaiting a judge’s decision with the free market.

While for some  the battle of 2011-12 is over, some ware growers that gambled on late burn offs may be playing cat and mouse with the weather for up to another month, with an increasing prospect of some fields not ever being harvested. Even where growers are using the combination of windrowers and self propelled harvester progress has been painfully slow.  

Key to profitability will be assessing ware and seed stocks during early storage. One of the best ways of achieving this is to sample stocks and leave in humid air temperatures of 15-20C for two weeks. This should provide an indication of any blackleg and progressive rots that may develop in store or in an export container. For the ware grower it will also indicate whether black dot will develop and whether the stock will be suitable for long term storage.

Slow store filling has and is causing quality problems. If possible, dedicate one store for curing to enable stock that has already been in store for a long period to be pulled down to 4-5C to preserve quality and stop dormancy break. Recently harvested stocks can be cured and dried for two weeks prior to being moved into other stores. The key is to maximise air flow so consider keeping boxes with excessive soil separate so airflow is not interrupted in stack.

With fewer boxes to store this season for most, make sure to avoid filling the backs of the store or leave at least 1.5m for air movement, before cross stacking in blocks to allow plenty of room for air to be drawn back through the boxes. Monitoring is essential to successful storage.

Monitor temperature differentials between the surface of the box and 6-8″ down as a key indicator –  more than 0.5C  difference in any area means ventilation is inadequate and requires investigation.

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