Spud Special: Potato planting kicks off in north Scotland

Another season is about to get underway and by the time you read this, the very earliest ware crops in the north of Scotland may be in the ground – temperatures are suddenly jumping after a cold February and start to March. There’s still a lot of land to plough and the soil is quite wet in places, so hopefully the warmer weather will allow growers to catch up.

Potato planting plans are still being put in place – there’s a lot of uncertainty especially around varieties such as Hermes – the changes to the size specification in Egypt for seed means that plant populations will need to be increased to ensure this year’s crop is within the 55mm top riddle. There will also be a large tonnage of 55-60mm Hermes seed to plant, which was unable to be exported, and that is going to have to go in at some very high seed rates, which will be a challenge for some planters.

One positive for potato growers has been the amount of land being offered for rent from cereal growers – this should mean that the crop goes in to land that is under less disease pressure due to longer rotations. Growers have also been able to be fussier and reject marginal land that might in the past have been taken.

The relentless pressure on agrochemical inputs continues – not just the loss of products, but the changes to buffer zones etc for many products means that planning of field layouts needs to be meticulous to avoid problems further down the line.

The loss of copper as a fungicide will have implications for the organic sector – there are no alternatives right now for blight control in organic potato crops, so how that is going to be addressed remains to be seen.

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