Potato harvest continues apace

Approximately 30 per cent of this year’s maincrop potato harvest is now in store with growers expecting to have all remaining field work will be completed well before Christmas.

Conor O’Malley, farm manager with Meath-based Meade Potato Company, explained.“We started digging on 30 September. Rooster crops are yielding between 18 and 23 tonnes to the acre. These are surprisingly high figures, given the very dry summer. What we are finding is that earlier-sown crops had more established canopies, once the dry weather hit. As a result, they were able to withstand the lack of moisture that little bit better.”

He continued: “Tuber quality is excellent. Dry matters are up where we would like them to be. Scab is a bit of a problem in some crops, but again nothing to write home about. A number of our growers irrigate crops during periods of dry weather. As well as boosting crop yields, this management approach will also serve to reduce the risk of scab. Almost all of our output is destined for the prepack market.”

Meade Potato Company has significant refrigerated crop storage facilities in its own right. This is further boosted by the availability of supplementary storage on-farm.

O’Malley went on to confirm that this week’s rain had brought harvesting to a halt – at least temporarily. “The initial break in the weather was welcomed, as the rain helped to loosen up the soil a little bit,” he further explained.

“But this week’s heavy showers have led to a serious deterioration in ground conditions. We will play it by ear over the coming days. But as soon as ground conditions improve, we will be back in the fields once again.”

On the subject of potato prices, O’Malley said that it was still far too early to comment. “Grower returns hit record levels last year,” he admitted.

“But 2012 was a one off. The reality is that the potato market has dropped back significantly since the start of this year’s harvest. It would be fair to say that a more normal trading year is in prospect.”

For those potato growers looking to get out into the fields over the coming days, Met Éireann is forecasting a changeable outlook. Unsettled conditions will persist for the rest of this week. The weekend and the the early days of next week will see rain at times and temperatures falling back to nearer normal values for the time of year.

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