After two dry years out of four, many farmers are seriously considering the future viability of a water hungry crop like potatoes.

An exceptionally dry summer for much of the UK this year came on the back of a dry growing season in 2018, which has led some growers to question which fields might continue to be fit for future potato planting.

Potatoes on lighter soils without irrigation suffered poor yields this year in many parts of GB. It seems likely that all but heavy soils will need access to irrigation for successful cropping, as extreme weather patterns look to become more common.

Speaking to The Scottish Farmer, the Executive Director at Agrico UK, Archie Gibson, said: “We have now had two in four dry years. In parts of eastern Scotland and most of England, if you can't get water to your potatoes you are going to question if you should plant. A lot of farmers have put in reservoirs and more will need to be built to cope with dry summers.

"Places like Norfolk need a lot of reservoirs if they don’t have access to ground water. On lighter land, many farmers have chanced growing potatoes, but these two dry summers will have forced a rethink. If you don't have irrigation, you need to stop and ask yourself, is this wise?

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"Taken in consideration with the failure of farm gate prices to keep pace with costs, it seems probable that the overall planted area will reduce in the short term. I’d say we are looking at a smaller area of potatoes planted in the future.”

Since AHDB stopped reporting planted areas of potatoes it is difficult to get accurate data, however anecdotally it is clear farmers are reviewing the area they intend to plant to crop. Following a vote to cancel the potato levy and AHDB’s work in this area, there are no long any official figures reported on the potato sector for GB.

The extreme heat during the summer caused many growing crops to shut down. Much of England saw the mercury edge towards 40 degrees Celsius which stops the plant from growing. Other countries such as Spain or Egypt which also experience similar temperatures tend to harvest by spring before temperatures get too high. Worryingly some of the varieties which have a shorter 90-day growing cycles got shut down during the hottest periods, and did not start again when the temperature dropped, leading to disappointing yields.

Even much of the irrigation during the peak of the summer was futile as the water evaporated before it reached the plant. The high heat, and lower yields, did not just happen in the UK but across all the northern European nations who grow potatoes through summer. This may well push many growers to plant earlier so potatoes can be lifted before the summer heat, which may increase late summer demand.