Warning of further woes for hard-pressed potato growers

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With the worst harvesting period in the past 30 years still fresh in their memories, and with poor prices for the crop they did lift, growers might let the 2013 potato acreage in Great Britain fall by 10 to 15 per cent, according to a leading agronomist.

Speaking in Perth, Andy Alexander, who provides potato growers in the Norfolk area with advice, said there were two pressures on the industry at the present time.

The first was financial, with rising costs not meeting sluggish or contracted prices, leaving growers well out of pocket. The second was the legacy of the wet weather in 2012 which he predicted would curtail plantings this spring.

Growers attending the meeting organised by SAC consulting also heard Dr Mark Stalham from Cambridge University Farms warn that growers should insist on more information on varieties and how they cope with wet seasons.

He wanted to see national variety trials redesigned to test new cultivars, not just on disease resistance and yield but also on their ability to cope with weather extremes.

He also advised growers that damage to the final crop is done as early as planting time, with compacted soils leading to loss of yield and also loss of tuber quality.

“Patience is a virtue in the spring,” he said. “Getting the crop into the ground in good conditions is absolutely critical. There is a direct correlation between the state of the soil and the level of deformed tubers lifted.”