Sticky start for spuds

MOVEMENT OF potatoes into store is gathering pace, but wet weather in northern and western areas is proving disruptive.

Approximately 30% of the UK crop has been cleared so far, compared to 35% at the same time last year, according to Rob Burrow of the British Potato Council.

“Progress is pretty slow, particularly in northern and western regions.

“In Lancashire soils are lying wet, with standing water in the rows.”

Southern and eastern areas are faring better, he said, but crop clearance is still quite slow.

“The next few weeks will be quite critical for crop storage prospects,” he said.

There are a number of quality issues associated with the wet summer, including increased greening of tubers, wet rots, blight and water damage, he noted.

Crop losses range from 5% up to 25% in areas hit badly by heavy August rainfall, Mr Burrow estimated. But, he did not believe this would have a big impact on the overall supply situation.

“Yields are expected to be higher, but wastage is also likely to be higher, although not as much as we thought a month ago.”

A slow start to harvest was true for Herefordshire grower Russell Price, who estimates he is about two weeks behind schedule, after struggling with late planting in the spring.

Harvest is now gathering pace, as soils have dried nicely after a very wet past two weeks, he said.

He has harvested about a quarter of his 1,200 acres of owned and contracted potato land.

“Quality and yield are both reasonable. But there is a long way to go yet.”

“If it stays dry, it will be an ideal harvest,” he concluded.

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