Torrential rain has slowed potato plantings to a trickle over the past two weeks, with growers setting just 74,000ha by 27 April.
That was just 2,200ha more than a week earlier, and well down on the 111,300ha planted by the same time last year and 100,500ha in 2010, according to the Potato Council.
Heavy storms had caused localised flooding in the South West, with ground conditions in the east also extremely wet. Where crops had been planted, the cold temperatures had slowed growth, with overnight frosts in places. “Three weeks ago plantings were going very well into excellent conditions – we were well ahead of average and slightly ahead of last year,” said James Lee, group technical manager at Greenvale AP.
“Then, we were looking at the implications of the drought – now it’s the implications of the rain. It does look as if it will have an impact on the overall yield, but it’s far too early to tell. If conditions improve now we could still have a good quality crop.”
In Shropshire and Staffordshire, growers had planted about 95% of their crop, while those in Somerset and Herefordshire were down at 70%. “It’s a mixed picture across the rest of the country, but we are 10-14 days behind now and it’s going to be a while yet before they can make any further progress.”