Spud special: Wet and cold soils hinder potato planters

Potato planters are still snugly parked in the sheds up in northern Scotland as spring proves to be rather elusive this year – we’ve had unsettled weather and low temperatures for the last few weeks and there is not much sign of a significant improvement this week.

Soil temperatures are hovering around or below the desired 7C growers would like to see before putting seed in the ground. It’s also wet, with even the lighter land in Morayshire still to dry out enough to allow much progress. Some sandy land has been de-stoned, but sits unplanted. Robust rates of tuber treatments will be needed if the low temperatures persist, as the risk of rhizoctonia will be greater than usual.

This later start could give growers the opportunity to revisit the research work done recently, which looked at cultivation techniques when dealing with wetter soils – the main conclusions were to avoid the temptation to get the bed tiller out and look more at the depth of cultivations being used to prepare seed-beds – especially the depth of the de-stoner. It’s easy to say, but much harder to apply, as frustration will grow if the weather continues to be uncooperative and with diesel cheaper than it has been for a few seasons.

One upside of the delayed planting across the country has been the rise in prices and demand for ware – this is helping to mop up some of the excess seed tops that were unable to be marketed due to the changes in Egyptian export criteria. It’s a small but unexpected bonus for growers who have 55x60mm seed left which they were unable to sell and had contemplated dumping as stock feed if it wasn’t required for planting.

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