Potatoes very late, but could surprise

25 October 2000

Potatoes very late, but could surprise

By Andrew Swallow

POTATO lifting is further behind this year than ever before, but yield and quality may pleasantly surprise growers, says the British Potato Council.

As of 20 October, only 55% of the crop had been lifted, compared to 75% on the same date last year, and 65% in 1998.

“The slowest year before was 1993, when about 60% had been lifted by now,” says BPCs Rob Burrow.

Some crops will have to be over-wintered on heavy land, he says, but given a break in the weather, is still hopeful most farmers will get crops cleared.

Yields are 5-7% down on last years average, but given the late plantings crops have caught up more than expected.

Big variations are reported even within the same field, due to variable seedbeds and localised rainfall.

Quality so far is good, but skin finish is an increasing concern for pre-pack crops left to lift in cold wet soils.

Despite wet conditions dry matter is generally high, causing bruising problems.

“By the time theyve been through the harvester, trailer and grading line some of them look like theyve been through five rounds with Mike Tyson,” said grower Edward Spanton, from near Ramsgate, Kent.

He is confident he will clear his last 12ha (30 acres) as it is on a hill.

But other peoples crops on the marshes will have to be over-wintered, he says.

Shropshire grower John Owen reports similarly high dry matters from near Shrewsbury.

Further north, in Cheshire and Lancashire, only 35-40% has been cleared, says Mr Burrow.

In Scotland about 60% is cleared, but travel is difficult.

On heavy land in Essex there are growing concerns about slug damage and potatoes will have to be dried in store, says BPC regional field manager Terry Hunt.

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