89% of UK potato area lifted
Topics: POTATO UK
The MetOffice rainfall anomaly maps show that during October, much of Yorkshire and the East Midlands had over 175% of ‘normal’ rainfall.
Most of the rest of England received 125% or more of normal rainfall, as did the southern parts of Wales where potatoes are grown.
In Scotland, rainfall was close to or slightly below average for October.
Actual monthly rainfall ranged from 75-100mm in the East of England to 200-300 mm in parts of Yorkshire, the North West and Southern Wales.
Wet weather persisted into November, with saturated fields and flooding affecting much of the country.
The River Don and surrounding areas were particularly affected by heavy rain, where there has been widespread flooding.
Saturated ground was a feature of lifting during the later parts of October and early November, with ground conditions being a key determinant in lifting progress.
On well drained soils it was possible for farmers to access crops in the occasional gaps between bands of rain.
Here lifting took place, with most crops on well drained land now lifted.
It is the land with poorer drainage that has caused the major problems, with wet soil conditions often preventing the machinery from accessing the field (especially where separate trailers are used).
As a result, there are increasing reports of crops being abandoned, or farmers halting lifting, but remaining hopeful that they might salvage something in the spring once ground conditions improve.
The risk with this strategy is that skin finish and fry colour could well be affected, resulting in potatoes having to find different markets to those for which they were grown.
There remains a great deal of uncertainty over the fate of the remaining 11% of the crop area yet to be lifted.
A small proportion of this area is expected to be lifted if there are any breaks in the weather over the next few weeks.
Some will aim to do a salvage job in the spring and see what they can get.
An estimated 2-3% of the area is expected to have to be completely written off, as the quality of the crop (incidence of rots) is such that it is unlikely to find a market, even if it could be extracted.
Yields decreased slightly for those crops harvested in late October and early November, attributed to waterlogging in fields and increased losses to rots.
The current estimated national average yield is 47-49t/ha.
Farm yields range from 17-75t/ha, with the lowest yields reported from fields where there were whole or partial abandonments.
Where wastage occurred due to rots, greens and machinery, there were also lower yields.
Quality over the last month was variable with rots the main concern across all regions.
Crops that were affected by standing water prior to harvest are particularly high risk, as well as those that were put into storage wet.
Some growers have chosen to leave crops in the ground where risks to quality may be affected by attempting to lift (e.g.
risk of rot spreading in store).
Those crops that were lifted in wet conditions brought high levels of soil contamination and rots into store, but this is being managed by vigilant ventilation.
Fry qualities are still holding, with occasional reports of numbers rising to 1 following the recent period of colder weather.
Despite the difficulty in lifting, bruising has remained at average levels for the year. ■