At least six weeks late, but reasonably stoical

1 May 1998

At least six weeks late, but reasonably stoical

At least six weeks late, but reasonably stoical

FORMER FW barometer growers still waiting to move on Monday remain reasonably stoical.

Water was lying in ridges set up back in January at Croft Farm, Newton Harcourt, Leics. Ray Coates son Brian reckoned it would be at least a fortnight before they could start planting 30ha (75 acres) destined for various outlets.

"We will be at least six weeks late compared with last year, which will probably hit yield by 5t/acre." His main hope is for a dry summer to make the most of irrigation from a recently installed 15.6m gallon reservoir.

Mike Cumming has 60ha (150 acres) of seed crops to get in at Lour Farm near Forfar, Scotland, but had hardly begun on land slow to dry. "It is a non-starter. We had 5in of rain just before Easter and then frosts. It is a bit late but nothing to be concerned about yet. Two years ago we did not start until Apr 30. Yields will be affected. But I always feel we make more money from potatoes when we end up with a space at the back of the shed."

Last year Tony Symonds wrapped up potato planting in the three days to Mar 22 at Lincomb Farms, Stourport on Severn, Worcs. This year chitted seed for his 12ha (30 acres) of Maris Piper was still in a neighbours cold store at the start of the week. "But it is not too late for a good yield."

Rain just before Easter brought a halt to plantings at Hook House Farm, Amcotts, S Humberside. "We have got 19 acres of crispers in out of a total of 110," says manager, Guy Tindale. "I am a bit bothered. In 1983 it took us six weeks to do 100 acres, but at least we were finished in early May. But my biggest concern is the delay in drilling vining peas. The schedules have gone to blazes." &#42

Practical difficulties

Main practical problem is keeping unsown and fast sprouting seed in good order, says David Hudson, technical director at Sutton Bridge, Lincs. "It is a bit nerve-racking. Get seed into a cold store if possible or hire some refrigeration," he advises.

With only about a third of crops sown, physiological ageing is another concern. Many seed tubers have accumulated high day-degree readings, which will lead to more stress-prone crops unable to make up for lost ground if the summer turns hot and dry, he explains.

"We are also having to think about rejigging cultivations." One option to speed progress is to forgo clod separation. Although more harvesting damage is likely, cleaner-rollers on modern lifters mean clods are less of a problem than they were.

See more