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Agribusiness News July 2022: Sector Focus – Potatoes

30 June 2022

Crop development update

As AHDB no longer produces planting estimates for the GB potato crop following the wind-up of AHDB potatoes; information is therefore poor, particularly for the ware crop.  The general feeling is that planted area for seed is roughly static for 2022 and ware area may be slightly down.

Planting conditions across Scotland were, overall, very good.  With only a handful of days lost to rain, most planting operations ran uninterrupted.  Some seed producers reported additional late orders as ware growers added an extra field or two to their acreage following the good run of planting.

Emergence was even and rapid for most crops, with only one or two problem fields.  Root systems will have developed well (provided seedbeds had good structure), which bodes well for yield potential.

Weed control appears to have been excellent for most fields – early dry conditions supressed germination of weed seedlings, and rainfall shortly after application of residual herbicides improved their efficacy.

Until mid-June, temperatures were a little low which has slowed crop development slightly.  Most crops had not reached canopy closure by 21 June (the longest day), which is a key target for maximizing capture of solar radiation.

Dry and dull conditions

Rainfall across the potato growing regions of Scotland has been very variable.  Localised short bursts of heavy rain have helped in some areas, but most soils are a little dry.  Rainfall has been below average, particularly for easterly coastal regions.  Irrigation began in early June for high value ware crops, and rain guns are still a common site across Scottish potato fields.

Sunshine hours appear to be down slightly in many areas, which is another factor slowing crop development.

Disease risk and quality

Although it is too early to predict crop quality with confidence, disease pressure is low overall.  Dry weather in June has supressed late blight and blackleg development.  Dry conditions also reduce the risk of powdery scab, as soil inoculum will not have had the opportunity to build up on root systems.

Common scab risk is high as tubers are initiating in dry conditions.  Seed treatment and irrigation (in ware crops) may help mitigate this, but if dry conditions persist, we expect common scab to be an issue this year, as it was in 2021.

Flights of problem aphids have occurred earlier than the average and in greater numbers.  This is of relatively little concern to ware growers, but seed growers are paying particular attention to their aphicide programmes and have made an early start to roguing.  Inspections have started for the most advanced seed crops, but the bulk of first inspections are expected to begin next week (4 July).

Yield potential

In summary, planting for the 2022 crop proceeded very well.  Crops have emerged uniformly, with low weed and disease pressure, but dull and dry conditions have slowed development somewhat.  Although there is a long way to go yet, yield potential looks slightly above average.  However, if dry conditions persist water stress may depress yields.

EU mainland crop

The NEPG (North European Potato Growers) have released planting estimates for 2022 ware potatoes (seed and starch excluded) in Belgium, Germany, France, and the Netherlands.  After a fall of about 5% from 2020 to 2021, ware area has recovered some ground and sits just above the five-year average.

Area EU 04 potatoes (excl. starch and seed production)

Crop Year5-year average20212022% Change
Belgium94,86689,64992,558+ 3.24
Germany182,332183,060185,800+ 1.50
France149,478153,100156,162+ 2.00
Netherlands76,04871,38872,816+ 2.00
Total EU502,723497,197507,336+ 2.04

Source: NEPG


As in GB, high cereal prices and land rentals are causing growers to question the viability of potato production.  Crop development is forward in many regions, with high temperatures and low rainfall causing some crop stress.

SRUC Potatoes Team

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