Potatoes in hand

The UK planted area for potatoes has held up despite a turbulent season for growers, new figures indicate.

Provisional estimates from AHDB show the planted area in Great Britain at 119,000ha, which would suggest only a one per cent drop on last year. The fall takes into account revisions to the 2019 planted area data since September.

The figures point to a minimal impact from the coronavirus crisis on planting decisions, as many growers had already made plans by the time the pandemic hit, according to AHDB.

The 2020/21 UK potato crop could be 5.4Mt if the average yield is 45 t/ha, the levy body said, adding that lower yields are anticipated on the early crops due to frosts in mid-May but yields on maincrop potatoes are looking relatively robust. The estimate, at 45t/ha, would mean a rise in production compared to last year, despite a drop in the planted area.

AHDB analyst Alice Bailey said: “Despite the wet weather hampering early planting, conditions changed dramatically when it came to the maincrop. For some growers the conditions bordered on too dry.

“When comparing these projected production figures with last year, it’s important to remember that some of the 2019 crop couldn’t be harvested. Our current estimate of 5.4Mt assumes that the entire planted area for this season can be lifted out the ground.'

Although there was some initial concern about cold soil temperatures earlier this year, temperatures rose throughout April, Bailey said. Despite this, a bought of frost in mid-May could still impact the yield of some crops, and while rain returned during June, the impact varied over the country but generally provided a boost to crops.

The warm weather throughout spring brought other challenges for growers, with aphids causing problems this season. The return of wet weather also brought the threat of late blight.