The potato planting season has been sporadic as farmers have seized every available moment to get tubers in the ground.

This inconsistency in planting times is likely to cause challenges for those aiming for a rolling harvest, as uneven planting leads to uneven harvesting schedules. The weather has played a significant role, with frequent rain causing start-stop planting conditions. Although the ground appears dry on the surface, it remains soaked underneath, complicating planting efforts.

Despite these challenges, most crops are now in the ground. In the Black Isle, planting is still ongoing, while approximately 75% of potatoes are planted in Moray and Aberdeenshire. Angus and Perthshire are at about 90%, and the Borders region is nearly complete. This year, more farmers are planting later into the season than usual, which will extend the Scottish harvest period.

Seed potatoes have been in tight supply this year. Some farmers have resorted to using farm-saved seed, although this practice is not recommended due to potential disease risks. As the weather warms up, potato growth has been promising. However, low sunlight levels suggest that a bumper crop is unlikely, potentially impacting yields and seed maturity.

There is also concern that later-planted crops may bolt due to stress from suboptimal conditions, resulting in a wider range of tuber sizes and posing challenges for the seed sector. The wet weather means irrigation assessments and actions are at least a month away. At least four weeks of hot and dry weather is needed before growers evaluate moisture requirements.

Potato Diseases

Unharvested potatoes are acting as reservoirs for diseases.

Groundkeepers, which are emerging in cereal crops, are potential carriers of virus, potentially increasing the virus burden in the Scottish potato crop. Regular rain has created conditions conducive to blight, with the first peach potato aphid caught on an Angus farm, indicating an early onset of disease in 2024. To combat this, an emergency authorisation of mineral oil Olie-H has been granted.

Reports of blackleg

Disease in potatoes have also surfaced. Blackleg is caused by the bacterium Pectobacterium atrosepticum, which thrives in wet conditions. It leads to black stems and rotting tubers, significantly impacting crop yield and quality.

Potato Markets

The potato markets remain strong, with very few or no free-sale potatoes available. Most potatoes currently moving are on contract. There appears to be little in the way of early crops this year, suggesting that tight supply conditions will persist through the summer.

The big question remains: how many hectares of potatoes have been sown? Official figures are not available, but various factors suggest a complex picture.

The tight supply of seed potatoes might have led some to plant smaller areas, while the strong market could have encouraged others to increase their planting. The overall market dynamics and the impact of weather and disease will shape the upcoming season, making it crucial for farmers to stay informed and adaptable.