NEW UK potato figures have revealed a mere 1% drop in planted area despite a turbulent season for growers.

Although wet weather is expected to have hampered early planting, a turn in the conditions in early spring meant planting for the maincrop went largely unaffected.

Provisional estimates from AHDB show the planted area in Great Britain at 119Kha, which, if correct, shows only a 1% drop on last year. The fall takes into account revisions to the 2019 planted area data since September.

Covid-19 doesn’t appear to have had an effect on planting decisions as many growers had already made plans by the time the pandemic hit.

Although it is early days, AHDB figures suggest that the 2020/21 UK potato crop could be 5.4Mt if the average yield is 45 t/ha. Lower yields are anticipated on the early crops due to frosts in mid-May but yields on maincrop potatoes are looking relatively robust. The estimate, at 45t/ha, would mean a rise in production compared to last year, despite a drop in the planted area.

AHDB Analyst Alice Bailey said: “Despite the wet weather hampering early planting, conditions changed dramatically when it came to the maincrop. For some growers the conditions bordered on too dry."

While rain returned during June, the impact varied over the country but generally provided a boost to crops.

“When comparing these projected production figures with last year, it’s important to remember that some of the 2019 crop couldn’t be harvested,” she continued. “Our current estimate of 5.4Mt assumes that the entire planted area for this season can be lifted out the ground’.

The warm weather throughout spring brought other challenges for growers, with aphids causing problems this season. Those affected are encouraged to use the aphid and virus tools available on AHDB’s website.

The return of wet weather brought the threat of late blight and Blightwatch issued a number of warnings around the UK prompting concern.