Between 10% and 15% of this year’s ware potato crop is still in the ground, according to Teagasc potato specialist, Shay Phelan.

“Significant tonnages are yet to be harvested in the northeast and northwest,” he told Agriland ahead of the start of the National Potato Conference in Co. Meath today (Tuesday, November 22).

“A lot of potatoes were dug over the past fortnight. These are currently being dried and cured before going into store.

“But it’s too early to say yet what sort of condition they are in. This week’s heavy rain has put a stop to all field work for the foreseeable future,” Phelan added.

Potato market and yields

Phelan went on to point out that the potato market is in balance right now.

“Last year saw growers obtaining record yields. In response, the acreage grown this year has come back a bit. Also, yields are well down, year-on-year,” he said.

There is little doubt that the drought conditions that persisted for most of the summer months have resulted in lower ware yields this year.

However, there is some indication that the rain that fell in September helped to bulk up some crops, prior to them being dried off.   

Average potato yields in 2021 came in at 19t/ac. It has been estimated that the 2022 figure will come in at around 15t.

The area of main crop potatoes grown in 2022 is approximately 400ha down on last year’s recorded figure.

“But the high dry matter potatoes coming out of the ground have a very high eating quality. Irish consumers like a floury potato. And this has been achieved across the board in 2022,” Phelan added.

“One downside to this is potatoes’ tendency to bruise as they come out of the ground. And growers should set up their harvesters accordingly to take account of this fact.

“The other upside to the dry conditions that characterised the 2022 growing season has been the very uniform size of the tubers coming out of the ground.”

The 2022 National Potato Conference takes place today at Gormanstown in Co. Meath. Shay Phelan believes that Irish potato growers must seek to secure new markets for their produce as they look to the future.

“The chipping sector represents one such opportunity,” he said. “It’s a market that requires potatoes with a high dry matter. Markies is a variety that meets these criteria. It also grows well under Irish conditions.  

“The issue of securing new markets for Irish potatoes will be well profiled at this year’s potato conference,” Phelan said.