Leonard Morris is tenant at
206ha (510-acre) White
House Farm, South Kyme
Fen, Lincoln. His heavy land
grows winter wheat and
oilseed rape and spring
peas and linseed. Lighter
ground is cropped with
potatoes, spring rape and
Since last writing our harvest report has slipped from bad to major disaster.
Our potato harvesting contractor arrived late and following frosts down to -5.5C. Our potato merchant would not let us lift until the ground temperature rose.
Once we started the first two loads were immediately rejected for frost damage. On speaking to a local potato merchant (not in crisping potatoes) we were told there was no market for crisping potatoes, there were generally too many on contract and they would keep putting us off until the colours went.
After three weeks of excuses, last weeks trial load was rejected for the colours having gone. Having had several years of crisping potato contracts only just making a margin and more hassle each year, growing crisping potatoes on contract no longer makes sense.
In future we will be expected to wash potatoes and cope with rear loading temperature controlled containers. We will carry the risk on the crop until crisps come off the line in packets and will only get static contract prices in return.
We have enough problems growing a respectable crop in tricky weather without that crop being rejected out of hand because someone has over contracted. I certainly dont believe my crops grow perfectly in an above contract price year, and grow badly in a below contract price year. Yet that seems to be the case.
Apart from a month of sleepless nights, I have sprayed the volunteers in the rape field that was looking like a lawn with Laser (cycloxydim) and Cropoil. The volunteers are now dying well.
I have also sprayed Consort winter wheat with IPU, Trifluralin and Cyperkill (cypermethrin) to control blackgrass, broadleaf weeds and aphids. Unfortunately wet weather since November 5 means no more wheats have been sprayed. Indeed, our fields are now very wet and friendly – walk on them, and they dont want to let you go.n
Autumn-sown crops have established well for Lincs farmer Leonard Morris, but crisping potatoes are a nightmare.