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Good conditions across England and Scotland have enabled a speedy harvest of seed potatoes – with about 75% of the crop out of the... Straightforward harvest for seed potatoes

Good conditions across England and Scotland have enabled a speedy harvest of seed potatoes – with about 75% of the crop out of the ground by early October.

Agronomists for potato breeder Agrico have completed test digs on more than 400 crops across both countries. Initial reports indicate quality is good while yields look to be around the five-year average.

“We’ve been blessed, generally, with very good weather and the seed harvest is well underway,” says Agrico executive director Archie Gibson.  “Good progress has been made across the whole of seed growing areas.

“It’s maybe been a little dry in some areas in the south of England but that’s been remedied with a little rain in the last couple of weeks. I know in the east it’s been a bit tougher on the ware growers.”

Positive ventilation

Quality-wise, Mr Gibson says he is very encouraged. Skins are in good condition and the potatoes came out the ground in good order. The Agrico store at Castleton is full, with positive ventilation on and working hard.

The coronavirus pandemic means English seed crops have received only one certification inspection. In response, Agrico has supported growers throughout the season, reviewing crop growth and virus pressure, offering advice where appropriate. All English seed will be post-harvest virus tested to ensure customers receive the highest quality product. Stocks in store are being checked regularly and Agrico’s sampling programme means accurate seed counts before delivery.

Having visited growers regularly over the past few months, sales manager Alex Moore doesn’t anticipate any issues. Crops have looked well since a dry spell post planting led to fewer numbers, he says.

Storage and grading

“In England, we saw the first crops coming out the ground in Norfolk at the end of August and beginning of September. In the west of the country – Shropshire and Wales – growers were done nice and early.

“Only in Yorkshire have we had rain. 50mm fell last week which has slowed harvest down but we’re still looking at 70% out of the ground in the county. Performer and Spectra varieties are looking particularly good.”

Lifting has been non-stop in Scotland too, with exceptional weather conditions. Some growers didn’t stop for a single day, which meant harvest was completed much earlier than usual in some areas.

Dry conditions meant little earth going into boxes. But less soil travelling over harvester webs saw more damage and bruising. That said, grading was relatively straightforward with sufficient air around the crop.