In contrast to most seasons, there doesn’t seem to be much difference between how the lighter soils are progressing when compared to the more well-bodied land. It seems to be all down to the large variability in winter rainfall.
We’ve seen how the terrible winter floods have affected many parts of the West, yet in some parts of East Anglia it’s also been the wettest winter for several years.
This wet and very mild winter has also had a big part to play on the huge variation in the quality of the stored crop. With prices firming for good quality stored potatoes, it’s important we reflect on the problems the winter conditions have bought to the ambient bulk stores.
Anyone who was relying on ambient storage – whether in a potato or onion crop – has had a difficult time getting temperature and humidity levels down, especially in the earlier part of the season. This, combined with the thin skins of many modern processing varieties which seem to take forever to set and some bacterial infections going into store, has caused huge problems.
If this unpredictable weather continues, will storage strategies need to be changed? The jury’s out, but the risk involved must be managed effectively as storage losses are the most expensive of all.
The weather continues to be highly unpredictable and pests and diseases are certainly all adapting and becoming more difficult to control. Managing these changes – while still being able to grow potatoes economically – will be a big focus going forward.
This, coupled with the loss of some product approvals, plus the changes to labels and the cost of maintaining the approvals we have left, makes all of our lives more complex. Unfortunately none of these changes ever make the crops easier or less expensive to grow.