Extreme weather cuts potato plantings by 3%

The Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) estimates that the total area in Great Britain planted with potatoes is 119,000 hectares, a fall of 3% on the previous year.

While this would represent the third-lowest planted area on record, AHDB’s Sector Strategy Director for Potatoes, Dr Rob Clayton, believes that a resilient industry will maintain the supply of our British-grown crop.

“Potatoes are a vital crop for families, providing 14% of the vitamin C consumed in Britain as a staple that some of our favourite meals are based on,” he said.

“This has been a tough and stressful season for growers, we do not underestimate that. However, we welcome news that supply chains are working closer than ever before, and that continual improvements are leading to reduced food waste at all points from the grower to the consumer.”

The Environment Agency (EA) has announced further support for drought-hit farmers, while SEPA, in Scotland, has given a commitment to help growers continue to access the water they need for irrigation.

The ultimate size of the potato crop, and how the market firms in response, will not be known until harvest. At five-year average yields, this would equate to a total potato harvest of 5.7 million tonnes.

“The season started with sub-zero temperatures brought by ‘the beast from the East’, followed by a wet spring that delayed planting,” said Dr Clayton. “Since then, we’ve seen one of the driest combined June and July periods on record, so most growers are reporting that yields will be down.

“Farmers have been working round the clock to minimise this, with teams working overnight so that any water used does not evaporate in the hot sun. There is still some growing season to go, so it is impossible to accurately predict how far down they will be.

“Variables such as the weather and the availability of irrigation could go some way to mitigating earlier conditions. Growers will be making contact with local EA agents to understand the additional flexibility on abstraction recently announced. Equally important will be the regular contact between growers and customers as they work to make the most from this year’s crop.”

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About The Author

John Swire - Deputy editor of Agronomist and Arable Farmer as well as responsibility for the Agronomist and Arable Farmer and Farm Business websites. After 17 years milking cows on the family farm John started writing about agriculture in 1998 and has since written for a variety of publications and has developed a wide circle of contacts within the industry. When not working John is a season ticket holder at Stoke City and also of late has become a fitness freak, listing cycling, swimming and walking as his exercises of choice.