This season's national potato harvest is reported as being average to just above normal, with yields running at 45 to 65 tonnes per hectare – the equivalent of 18 to 26 tonnes per acre.
According to the Potato Council’s latest grower panel lifting survey, harvesting is slightly behind schedule, putting the land area cleared by the end of September at over 32,000 hectares (79,040 acres).
The total land area harvested is over 3,000ha (7,400 acres), less than the corresponding week in 2012 and over 31,000ha (76,570 acres) less than 2011. The quality of crops is generally acceptable, although scab flecking was reported as being widespread with degrees of black scurf and black dot being evident, the Potato Council said.
However, Northumberland potato grower Mark Robson of Turvelaws Farm, Wooler, reports crop yields this year are running above annual average at 21 to 22 tonnes per acre.
He said: “Crops are yielding about one tonne higher than a normal year and quality is absolutely brilliant.
“Yields have been much better owing to the good weather and lifting the crop has gone well owing to the dry ground conditions we’ve experienced in Northumberland. We have harvested 350 acres to date and have about 3,000 tonnes left to lift.”
Turvelaws grows several varieties, including Maris Peer for salads, as well as Saxon and Estima for baking purposes.
The farm, also noted for growing crisping potatoes, supplies leading manufacturers such as Phileas Fogg and McCains. Mr Robson added: “We expect to complete harvesting by the end of the week and are currently lifting the crisping varieties. This year’s crops include Lady Claire and Saturna and both varieties are yielding and performing well.”
Rain has recently affected many areas of the country but wetter weather conditions have been beneficial to some crops, which had experienced bruising problems due to the previous dry conditions.
Rain at the start of last week slowed down crop lifting, although temperatures have benefited storage and some reports claim crop yields and quality have been variable.
Heavy rain in the east of England restricted lifting in some areas last week but the wet weather conditions benefited subsequent harvesting. Burning off is well advanced, although some fields have been left because of late maturity. However, most crops are showing increased levels of senescence.
Potato growers are expecting the majority of the remaining crops to be harvested over the next couple of weeks. Skin set continues to be slow and has in certain cases caused delays in lifting operations. Levels of potato bruising have increased this year, particularly in the drier regions.