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Good Year for Potatoes but Future Challenges Remain – Farmers Guardian – John Chamberlain

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John Chamberlain

With potato harvest results looking promising, Farmers Guardian takes the opportunity to catch up with John Chamberlain of Farmacy for the final part of our series, as he evaluates the 2019 season and looks ahead to next year.

 East Anglia: John Chamberlain (Farmacy)

Principal crops: Processing, some salads, soft/set skin, baking potatoes 

Dry weather through August and September resulted in a rapid increase in crop dry matter, with some Fenland crops desiccated two to three weeks earlier than normal, according to John Chamberlain.

"There has been some irrigation to free-up dry land ahead of lifting, but generally harvest is going well, with good yields and quality, particularly in varieties such as Markies and Agria. However, I am not sure varieties that bulk up later in the season, such as Ramos and Sagitta, will yield quite as well.

Desiccation

"Because it has been so dry, we have not seen as many big, dense crop canopies this year, which has helped with flailing and desiccation," he adds.

Indeed, canopy management will be one of the biggest challenges next season without diquat, and Mr Chamberlain says some growers may need to reconsider planting plans to reduce the need for knocking-down full, green canopies before harvest.

Nitrogen rates and timing also need considering for canopy management.

"Rates have crept up in recent years, so some may need to look at that. I also support AHDB research showing the benefit of applying all nitrogen by tuber initiation and not drawing it out to keep the crop green."

He recommends applying at least 60 per cent of nitrogen as a base fertiliser, with the remainder applied as soon as the crop emerges.

Mr Chamberlain also notes the hot, dry season has been ideal for red spider mite in the Fens, which has caused some feeding damage to canopies, notably in Markies.

 

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For more information on the discoveries made by Hutchinsons agronomists David Harris (Cornwall), Andy Goulding (Cheshire) and Keith Brand (Fife and Angus) click here.