Despite a stop-start lifting season as a result of regular rain showers, harvested crops have yielded well and there are few quality issues being reported.
An improvement in weather in the eastern counties has allowed growers to progress well with potato lifting, with around 70 per cent of crops harvested. While skin set has been a challenge, yields in the South East have been the best they have been for the past two years, according to Norfolk agronomist and grower Andy Alexander.
He says: “Skin set has been slow. We had a reasonably good growing season, so crops have kept growing and have not come under stress to force them to shut down. We have had to desiccate quite green crops this year, hence we are getting bigger yields, but we cannot have it both ways.”
Although crop quality has been good, with scab only visible on some susceptible varieties and slug damage limited to untreated crops, Mr Alexander believes there may be some storage losses, bringing the overall saleable yield down.
He adds: “Early September was very dry and we were seeing quite a lot of bruising damage in tubers, but now that field conditions have improved, we are not seeing as much of that. Both skin and foliar diseases have been very low as well.
“However, I suspect waste levels might be quite high, because there has been quite a lot of greening and misshapen potatoes which, along with storage losses, will bring the overall saleable yield down.”
On the south coast of England, yields and quality of maincrop potatoes are said to be good. However, cases of black dot and blackleg have been reported. Salad varieties have been showing mixed quality, with scab an issue on some susceptible varieties, according to AHDB.
In Scotland, lifting progress has been stop-start in nature, with poor ground conditions, particularly in the north east of the country, causing delays.
Aberdeenshire grower Lewis Pickering says: “We have only managed to harvest around 20 per cent of our maincrop potato area, whereas last year we had harvested nearer 50 per cent by now. The ground is just so wet and as soon as it shows signs of drying, we are hit with another rain shower.”
However, crops that have been lifted, have achieved yields that are comparable to long-term farm averages. “So far, we have averaged around 42t/ha, which I am happy with given the lack of sunshine in the lead up to harvest and the amount of rain we have had during in recent weeks. With the exception of slug damage, which has been quite extensive this year, crop quality is pretty good,” says Mr Pickering.
In Perth, Robert Doig of Caithness Potatoes has also been frustrated by wet weather. “As of this morning [October 9] we have 70 acres out of 500 left to harvest, but they are our trickiest acres so we are praying for continued dry weather for another five or six days,” says Mr Doig.
“At the moment we are about seven-10 days behind where we were last year, but that could get worse if the poor weather continues.
“Yields are a little behind the five-year average which is a direct consequence of the reduced tuber numbers we have been seeing all season, but some varieties are more affected than others. Quality is variable, but is good on average.”