North-east tattie crops off to a good start

Article taken from the Scottish Farmer

Potato growers north of Aberdeen are enjoying a ‘land of milk and honey’ in contrast to their southern counterparts, according to Andy Steven, Agrovista’s Elgin-based potato and vegetable agronomist.

“Below Aberdeen, growers have had a much tougher start because of catchy weather.  Many have had to use bed tillers to force the ground for planting,” he explains.  “But it’s a very different world in the north, where planting has been into very good, workable soils allowing crops to establish well.”

As is often the case, what happens next depends on the weather.  “If we have a wet season in the south, this will combine with poor soil structure to cause problems like inadequate rooting.”

The market is also an uncertainty.  “The final area of ware crop planting will hinge on supermarket demand.  We are following a tough price season last year and I’m watching to see whether growers will respond by cutting their planted areas.  We should know the situation when we receive market stats later in June.”

The other concern that he has is with early season potato blight.  “It’s shaping up to be a difficult start, due to the combination of catchy weather, coupled with the huge number of unsprayed potato volunteers in cereal crops – we just haven’t had the frost over the winter to kill them.”

“Our weather station in Brechin is already pinging daily with a new Smiths Period [the trigger for blight]; and I’ve had reports from Ayrshire that blight has already been seen.”

Volunteers remain a key source of infection.  “Ground keepers are the worst I have seen for years and they present a source of unsprayed inoculum throughout Scotland.  I’m particularly concerned about the young plants emerging now which are highly vulnerable,” added Mr Steven

“The conditions highlight that it’s not a year to take any risks and it’s essential that we keep early blight out of the crop if we’re to stay ahead of the disease for the rest of the season.”

He recommends starting blight sprays as early as rosette stage of the crop and if weather remains catchy, spray intervals should be no more than seven-days apart, using a range of products with different modes of action.”

Early sprays should be the systemic product such as Consento or semi systemic such as Ranman Top or Revus.


07 June 2014

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