There will be potato losses this year, as growers are faced with one of the wettest harvests since 2012, agronomist Tom Murray of O’Shea Farms told the Irish Farmers Journal.
The last wettest year that potato growers remember is 2012, Murray maintained, adding that a lot of people reckon 2023 has been even worse than that.
“We can’t get into the fields to harvest and that is affecting net yields for growers. Not only can [growers] not dig, but what [growers] are going to dig is deteriorating every day it’s in the ground,” he said.
Although growers were late sowing this year because of the weather, potatoes planted in the middle of May should be lifted in the middle of September, after their four months in the ground. However, progress because of the weather has been very slow and is costing farmers as a result.
“The cost of harvesting has doubled because of the conditions and it’s hard on man and machine,” he added.
When potatoes are waterlogged for more than 24 hours, the risk of rot is very high, Murray explained.
“Not only that, in some cases it’s just going to be savage to dig when the weather takes up again. Any rain that has been falling over the last six weeks has been falling on wet ground,” he said.
Of the 30 growers who supply potatoes to O’Sheas, 20 of them still have potatoes in the ground. Brendan Lynch from Louth said that he has been two weeks behind all year as a result of the weather.
“I’ve only 35ac left to harvest and hopefully we’ll have it all wrapped up by the end of this week. But if I’m honest, I don’t really trust the weather any more. It’s not going to be simple from here on out,” he said.
Yields, he added, are below average because of the length of time they were in the ground and late planting. Jamie Rankin, a grower in Donegal, said he is just halfway through harvest and had hoped to be finished by Halloween, however that’s not looking likely now.
“We managed to keep on top of blight fairly well, but the mild conditions are making it harder to store the potatoes, they’re just too warm coming into the store,” he said.