Northern Ireland’s early potato season delayed by wet weather and poor seed availability

Paul Hamilton, of Cherryvalley Farm and Wilson's Country agronomist, Stuart Meredith (right)

Paul Hamilton, of Cherryvalley Farm and Wilson’s Country agronomist, Stuart Meredith (right)

Northern Ireland (NI) potato growers are predicting a late start to this year’s early spuds season after poor weather and seed availability hampered planting.

Agronomist for NI’s leading potato brand Wilson’s Country, Stuart Meredith, said 2024 had been a challenging year for the region’s potato growers.

Relentless rain and low seed availability meant that most early growers did not get potatoes planted out until April, he said.

“It’s only now that these crops are taking off,” Meredith said, speaking in mid-May.

“The weather forecast for the next fortnight is favourable. If these conditions are maintained over the coming weeks, then we should see the bulk of 2024 earlies in the shops by the third week in June,” he added.

The continuing rain, which has been such a feature of the weather since last summer, meant that growers were delayed in getting early crops into the ground, Meredith explained.

He added that seed availability was also an issue, partly due to the very poor crops of potatoes that were grown in 2023.

As a result, a number of new early varieties have been planted this year, he said. These include: Casablanca, Arcade and Osprey.

“The eating quality of these potatoes will be excellent,” Meredith said.

Comber-based producer Paul Hamilton confirmed that his first early potato crops should be in the shops by the first or second week of June, weather permitting.

“We managed to get the first of the potato crops planted in February. There was then almost a month’s break in field work, as a result of the weather,” he said.

“We took the decision to grow some of the first early crops under plastic this year. This ensures that the growing crops are protected from frosts.”