Latest update just before the harvest of storage potatoes
What a lousy Belgian summer! This phrase has dominated conversations for weeks now, and it’s certainly true that the weather reports bear witness to the heavy rainfall and lack of sunshine since early June. This kind of bad weather is not without repercussions for our potato crops.
This season, the planting took place between 20 April and 10 May in optimal soil structure conditions. The sprouting of the crop was slow due to relatively low temperatures during the month of May. In June, thanks to wetter and warmer weather, the leaves grew quickly but at the expense of tuber development. For Fontane – the most popular variety in the industry – the number of tubers per plant is unusually low this year.
This wet weather may be good for leaf growth, but it also leads to the potato’s worst enemy: late blight. This fungal disease initially attacks the foliage and has caused the first infections in fields from the beginning of July. Yet, farmers had started taking preventive action at the beginning of June. Preventive and curative fungicide applications were carried out regularly until the end of August so as to keep the spread of the pathogen to an absolute minimum, as its spores would eventually contaminate the tubers. Regrettably, in organic agriculture and gardens, the fungus took the upper hand and almost completely destroyed entire plots.
To make matters worse, excess water and a lack of sunlight hinder good photosynthetic activity. The plant is stressed and may react to this by growing tubers abnormally. When the plots were monitored, cracked tubers could already be seen in mid-July. Since mid-August, some varieties have also started to show holes in their cores.
In our business as food manufacturers – and particularly in the potato industry – the weather plays a crucial role. Each new season brings its own batch of good and bad surprises that we must face up to.
In the meantime, farmers are hoping for better weather conditions for the upcoming harvest…which is only a few weeks away…