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2017 regional lifting round up

Publication Date: 
10 November 2017

Peter Collier, Analyst, Peter.Collier@ahdb.org.uk, 02476 478851. 

The 2017 lifting season has seen widespread good yields. However, challenging weather conditions in September led to increased disease pressure and delays in lifting for many in October.

September

Above average September rainfall impacted field work ability across all regions as the month progressed. Areas of the South-West, particularly that of Cornwall and Devon, witnessed up to 200% above average rainfall for September.

In the East, the month began with dry conditions, allowing field work to have progressed ahead of schedule. However, as a result of the lack of rain in late summer and early September, higher levels of scab were seen, especially on the sandy free draining soils. Burning off at the beginning of September was reported as ahead of schedule but progress slowed, hindered by increasingly wet weather until burn off was complete. With increasingly higher levels of rainfall over the remainder of the month, field work for some became difficult. The progressively wetter weather led blackleg to be seen and slug damage was reported across the region. While quality was continually reported as good and yields above average.

In the West, the dry start to the month saw burning off and lifting well underway, however, reports suggested scab had started to be seen widely across all soil types and varieties. By the second week, with the increased rainfall, field work began to be delayed, hampering disease control measures. Through the progressively wet month, blight pressure increased, yet blackleg damage was reported as less than in previous seasons. By the end of September, the majority of crops had been burnt off with good yields and quality generally found to be good. The exception being scab in crops from free draining soils, plus occasional rust spot reports.

In the South, September began with reports of good yields for salad potatoes. However, the rain soon began to affect lifting and fieldwork fell behind schedule. Additionally, quality came under pressure as the wet weather led to an emerging slug presence, with damage becoming a concern for many. Irrespective of the challenging conditions, above average yields were reported for the region during September, with tuber quality reported as generally good.

In Scotland, the month began with few instances of scab, excellent quality reports and above average yields. However, the September rains, while less heavy than in other regions, led to blackleg becoming a concern for many and occasional reports of rot, slug damage was also being reported. Field work later became hindered by the wet weather, with delays to burning off and limited lifting progress by the end of the month.  

October

With yields reported by many as above those seen in 2016 and with the 2017 area up 4% on 2016, the additional volume lifted in October led to storage problems for some. As storage space came at a premium, questions over the quality of stored potatoes were raised. Where sub-ideal storage facilities have been used, and the temperature and humidity levels unable to be controlled, quality may have suffered. In addition and of concern to some, were the number of boxes being brought into commission. The usage of boxes that may not be of the high standard normally seen, could result in loss of quality among stores. Vigilance of stores will be of upmost importance, and following CIPC usage rule changes in August, best practice must be followed (Click here to read more).

In the East, good weather during the first half of the month led to the drying of waterlogged ground and allowed better lifting conditions for the majority. However, some areas found the ground sticky throughout October. Disease pressure also reduced in October, with less damage found than had been expected earlier on, including only isolated cases of blight and limited blackleg. Yields during the month were generally seen as good to exceptional with storage being rapidly filled. The large crops delayed lifting for some due to the additional time needed to grade, the delays were also exacerbated for some by the slow skin set conditions. By mid-October, PCN testing was said to be well underway with planting plans being drawn up. Quality assessments toward the end of October revealed some concerns over stores, with the quality of the crop in the east often expressed as average, with hollow heart and misshapen samples being found. How widespread these quality assessments are will become clearer through the season as good quality crops may have been prioritised for storage, with the lower quality entering the depressed market.

In the West, the majority of crops had been burnt off by the beginning of the month and lifting was approaching completion by the end of October. The challenging wet start gave way to drier weather for many, allowing better lifting conditions. By the second week in October, it was reported that lifting was nearing completion for most. The disease pressure that had been of concern during Septembers wet weather was contained to limited and isolated cases of blight, although Scab was often reported in the more susceptible varieties. PCN testing was underway at the beginning of the month with planting plans being drawn up.

In the South, as the month began, much of Cornwall, Devon and Somerset were still to be lifted. Wet weather continued to plague Cornwall and parts of Devon in October, creating difficult conditions and further delaying lifting, with coastal areas particularly affected. Drier weather further east in this region allowed lifting in Somerset across to Kent to progress well. Storm Ophelia midway through the month temporarily provided some welcome winds, further drying out the wet fields. Considering the mostly unfavourable conditions, quality was reported as good in general. However, in the salad market quality reports were more varied. The wet weather did not help disease pressure, with cases of blackleg and tuber blight being reported along with slug damage for some.

In Scotland, many entered the month with lifting running behind schedule. During the end of the second week in October lifting progressed well, with less rain falling than had been forecast and most ware crops reportedly lifted. Progress continued with the majority of the Lothians’ lifted by the end of October. Yields across Scotland were reported as above average with many finding actual yields above that of test digs. Lifted samples were reported to be of good quality, with little bruising going into storage. The modest rainfall during the month eased disease pressure, with only isolated blight cases, but slugs were a concern in wetter regions.

Inevitably, the combination of good yields and an increase in planted area has had an impact on the free-buy price this season. We invite anyone interested in discussing market conditions to join us at BP2017 at Harrogate, 22-23 November.

Potato Data Centre: Robust data at your fingertips

At BP2017, visitors will be able to road test the new Potato Data Centre (PDC). By the event, PDC will allow users to interrogate real-time data and compare trends from past seasons on:

  • Price
  • Varieties
  • Planted area
  • Regions
  • Market sector
  • Yield

Productions figures will be added to the platform soon. PDC represents a step change in the provision of our MI data, putting you closer than ever to meaningful market intelligence. Those interested in discussing the content of this report, can email Peter.Collier@ahdb.org.uk or visit us on stand 137 at BP2017.

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