Potato yields suffer

Supply of main crop potatoes will be heavily affected by the recent drought, with yields significantly reduced in some parts of the country.

Paul Coleman from Greenvale AP said that mainstay crop Maris Piper was the worst hit variety, with East Anglia struggling most to cope with the heat, adding that un-irrigated crops in these areas were “disastrous”.

Yields in South Lincolnshire, earmarked for a substantial amount of pre-pack supply, could also be as much as 20 per cent down.

However, crops in other growing areas Hereford, Shropshire and the Scottish borders were “not far off normal yields”, he said.

Plentiful rain in April and May produced 10-15 per cent higher stem numbers, which in favourable conditions would have meant higher than average yields, but the dry June and July period has meant irrigation has been scarce.

Coleman said potato growers working to processing contracts would be hard hit, as product was smaller and volumes lower due to the dry weather: “Processors want big potatoes and that’s very bad new for growers in processing contracts. This year they will have low yields.”

While the recent rainfall may come as a saviour for other growers, it could cause problems for potato growers. Secondary growth would cause “messy” crops containing both glassy and normal tubers.

In response, growers are looking to apply maleic hydrazide - a chemical used for sprout control in store and to reduce the level of secondary growth. While, retailers banned its use two years ago because its tendency to leave residues, the unforgiving conditions have meant its use has been temporarily approved under strict criteria.

Coleman said retailers were being extremely supportive of UK growers: “We only get these years once every ten years,” he said. “They appreciate there is some significant issues out there and they are working with us to help us produce the best quality possible and to make sure they’ve got product available for their customers.