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First Potato Earlies Should Be In Shops By Mid-June

By Sarah O'Sullivan
First Potato Earlies Should Be In Shops By Mid-June

The first potato earlies of the season should be available in stores by the second week of June, according to Farm Link.

Following a stop-start approach to planting due to exceptionally wet weather, growers have made some progress, as conditions have dried up in the past few weeks.

Potato earlies – also known as new potatoes – are fast-growing varieties, usually ready for harvest within 12 weeks of planting.

The Irish Farmers’ Association (IFA) reported on 8 May that stocks remained tight, though planting has progressed.

Comber, Co. Down-based producer Paul Hamilton has confirmed that his first early potato crop should be in shops by the first or second week of June – weather permitting.

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The Hamilton family trades under the name Cherryvale Farm, growing a mix of parsnips, carrots, beetroots and potatoes.

The potatoes that the family grows are a mix of early, second-early and maincrop varieties.

Depending on ground conditions, Hamilton will either plough potato ground initially or go in with a specialised one-pass machine.

The one-pass machine grubs the field, buries stones, and creates a bed for the new crop.

In terms of fertiliser, Hamilton uses poultry litter, which is spread prior to tilling at a rate of 3t/ac.

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‘Tremendously Well’

Hamilton, who plants about 60 acres of potatoes annually, said, “We managed to get the first of the potato crops planted in February.

“There was then almost a month’s break in fieldwork, as a result of the weather.

“We took the decision to grow some of the first early crops under plastic this year. This ensures that the growing crops are protected from frosts.

“Parts of the farm were extremely wet earlier in the season. We had no option but to plough those areas.

“Once the ground has been tilled, we go in with the potato planter.”

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He added, “Our second earlies, mostly Queens, were planted in mid-March, without plastic.

“They are looking tremendously well at the present time and should be ready for digging by the middle of July.”

‘Growers Were Delayed’

Wilson’s Country agronomist Stuart Meredith visited Cherryvale Farm and confirmed that 2024 has so far been a difficult year for potato growers.

Meredith noted the key issues of poor weather and seed availability.

He said, “The continuing rain, which has been such a feature of the weather since last summer, meant that growers were delayed in getting early crops into the ground.

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“Seed availability has also been an issue this year.

“This is partly due to the very poor crops of potatoes that were grown in 2023.

“As a result, a number of new early varieties have been planted this year.

“These include Casablanca, Arcade and Osprey.

“For the most part, early growers did not get potatoes planted out until April – and it’s only now that these crops are taking off.

“The weather forecast for the next fortnight is favourable.”

Meredith concluded, “If these conditions are maintained over the coming weeks, then we should see the bulk of 2024 earlies in the shops by the third week in June.”

Read More: Potato-Planting Impacted By Heavy Rainfall

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