Rain in some areas last weekend has given a boost to potato lifting which has seen delays for various reasons including bruising risk, delayed skin set and a desire by growers to maximise yields towards the end of a difficult growing season.
Ben Sykes, who grows 220ha of potatoes in Tadcaster, North Yorkshire had harvested 10-20 per cent of the crop w/c October 8 when he would normally have harvested 40-50 per cent by this time.
“They were planted a lot later because of a wet spring and it has been a stressful growing season with the heat. We’ve had to wait a long time for them to mature and now we are harvesting dangerously late,” he says.
Mr Sykes grows processing potatoes, mainly destined for McCain’s and several other customers. With potatoes grown on contract and prices fixed, he has opted to harvest later to try to improve yields which he describes as ‘average to poor’.
“On unirrigated fields, so far we have averaged 30t/ha whereas on irrigated crops we have averaged 50-55t/ha.”
With 22mm of rain falling on October 5, lifting conditions have been ideal on Oct 7 and 8, he says. “It was too wet on Saturday but now it’s ideal.”
Conditions for storage are also good with low night time temperatures cooling soils, he says.
AHDB says soil moisture and skin-set were the key influences on lifting progress in the w/c October 1. In regions which had some rainfall, lifting progressed well with ideal conditions. However, on drier soils, increased bruising of samples has been reported with some growers opting to delay lifting and wait for some rain.
Delayed skin set is also postponing lifting for some, while mixed skin sets have been reported from the same lift. Cooler conditions have helped to dissipate field heat, which has aided movement to stores, says AHDB.
In the West, conditions were reported to be more favourable for lifting than in the East, with higher soil moisture levels, it says.
There are reports of a reduced baker fraction this year in Scotland, although early indications suggest yields are only marginally down from average, says AHDB.