‘Salad potato production is a one-horse race’

There is huge potential in salad potato production said Teagasc’s Michael Hennessy and farmers were told at a recent Teagasc potato event that it is a ‘one-horse’ race.

Farmers could potentially divert some of the main crop into salad potato production. Salad potatoes could be a 90-day crop for tillage farmers.

There were five different varieties on demonstration at a recent Salad Potato Technology Project crop walk –  Maris Peer, Charlotte, Jester, Jazzy and Imagine.

Salad potato production is a one horse race, according to Stuart Wale, Scotland’s Rural College (SRUC), who also spoke at the event.

“The market at the moment requires potatoes between 25-42mm so, if farmers miss the salad market they won’t get anything out of the crop.”

It is about getting massive tuber figures he added. Wale highlighted the characteristics and performance of the varieties on trial.

Charlotte is an oval cream coloured variety. It is a well-established variety and produced 31t/ha. On the demonstration it produced 645,000 tubers/ha in the required size bracket. Skin set is a major issue in the crop in Scotland. Charlotte produces two tubers/stem.

Imagine is a new distinctive Teagasc variety. It is a unique variety with yellow flesh and skin with purple eyes. The crop produced a total of 32.5t/ha with 17t/ha ranging from 25-42mm. It produced 2.41 tubers/stem.

Jester produces a huge numbers of tubers. It has very bright white skin and cream coloured flesh. In total it produces 1.85m tubers/ha although a lot of these tubers are below 25mm (700,000 tubers). It is a high cropping variety producing 31.1t/ha with 3.21 tubers/stem.

Maris Peer was the worst performing variety on trial. The total yield was only 19.8t/ha. An oval cream variety, it has long been cited for salad production in the UK but it does not perform as well in Irish systems.

Jazzy is another new variety it has huge stem multiplication. It produces 1.8 tubers/stem. It produces high tuber numbers with excellent taste texture and cooking ability.

Wale also said that a 30-35t/ha crop will not require a huge amount of nitrogen.

“It is important the get the crop out of the ground as quickly as possible if too much nitrogen is applied it will delay skin set.”

Teagasc agronomist John Pettit highlighted the costs of production.

“Famers have to get very well paid if they are only getting yields of 10t/acre.

“Costs are in the region of €3,500/acre.The farmer needs at least €300/t to get their money back out of the crop.”

Salad potatoes made €350-400/t in 2014 and there is a strong market for Irish grown salad potatoes.

He also added that one Wexford grower is currently importing salad potatoes at €615/t in 10kg boxes.

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