Farm Ireland
Independent.ie

Saturday 17 November 2018

'If potatoes don't get water within the next fortnight, we are looking at a very significant crisis'

From left: Wilson’s Country chairman Angus Wilson, Comber potato grower Hugh Chambers and Wilson’s agronomist Stuart Meredith
From left: Wilson’s Country chairman Angus Wilson, Comber potato grower Hugh Chambers and Wilson’s agronomist Stuart Meredith

Donna Deeney

The heatwave, which follows an extremely wet April, has played havoc with the production of spuds.

Angus Wilson, who set up Wilson's Country Ltd in Armagh 40 years ago, said the crop of Comber potatoes currently being harvested is much less than it should have been.

He warned that if it doesn't rain within the next week, the crop sown in May and due to be lifted in September will be in even shorter supply.

Mr Wilson said: "The early crop of Comber potatoes, which are being dug at the moment, is maybe half of what it should be and the rest of the crop is really, really thirsty.

"If they don't get water within the next fortnight, we are looking at a very significant crisis in the industry for next year's crop.

"Normally, Comber potatoes would yield around six or seven tonnes an acre, but we are looking at half that now.

"The main crop of potatoes that were planted in May are doing quite well, surprisingly, in spite of the drought, but that's because they don't need a lot of water at the initial growing period. But from here, going forward, a lot more water will be needed.

"If it doesn't rain within the next two weeks, we will be very concerned. In the 30 years since I started the business, I certainly do not remember conditions as hot and dry as this."

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William Gilpin, from Gilfresh Produce also ion Armagh, said that while carrots planted in May are not yet affected, rain is needed soon.

He said: "All our carrots are all well established and doing well, but we do need rain within the next two weeks. It is still too early to tell how things will pan out and what the yield will be, but we know already the crop will be later.

"We seemed to have had extremes of weather this year, in April and May, we had the extreme wet weather and now we have this extreme dry weather, but hopefully there will be enough rain within the next two weeks, otherwise we will have to try and get some access to water.

"Making sure there is access to water is not something that is normally a consideration when you are buying or renting land for growing carrots in Northern Ireland, but we will have to come up with something if this dry weather continues."

Belfast Telegraph

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