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Harvesting bruising rots – Potato Review

Andrew Goodinson, agronomist and potato specialist at Hutchinsons, offers insights and top tips to help growers get the best results from lifting and managing potatoes into store ...

With potato stores empty or emptying, now is the opportunity to clean, repair and maintain equipment and the fabric of the building, says Andrew.

Contaminated dust and debris is a major source of infection for many diseases including black dot, dry rot, gangrene and silver scurf. Dust removal reduces the chances of crop infection, improves the working environment and demonstrates a professional approach to store management – and this is a quality noted and valued by customers.

Andrew says: “If you can, vacuum, rather than sweep, to remove dirt and dust from all horizontal surfaces and follow this with a power hose as long as the insulation is moisture-proof.”

If boxes are used for storing potatoes, he recommends using a power hose to remove residues and disease or otherwise leaving them exposed to outside (UV) light. Where possible, return boxes to store to improve their life span.

Harvesters, graders and boxes should also be cleaned with a power hose and, if significant infection was found last season, treated with a disinfectant.

“Now is also a good moment to check that the stores are in good order, with no air leaks, and fans and ventilation are working properly.

Flexible planning to allow for changing conditions

As the weather around harvest time can be unpredictable, Andrew advises growers to create flexible plans around which field to prepare first for harvest.

“It is a good idea to pair one field which tends to be wet and has heavier soils, with another which tends to be dry.

“Then if you have wet weather, you can opt to lift the dry one first, and get it out of the way. Of course, if the weather is dry they you go into the wetter soils.

“This helps keep options open so you can take decisions when weather windows appear.”

He adds that fields which are known to be infested with PCN should be harvested last, to reduce the risk of carrying the pathogen from field to field on the machinery.

Decisions on whether to windrow should also depend on field conditions; while putting the lifted tubers on to the next ridge can help skinset because they cure more quickly, if conditions are very dry it may raise the risk of bruising, he warns.

Soil type also affects bruising levels. Clay and silt soils provide better protection at harvest than lighter sandy soils because they cushion the tubers on the primary web – as long as they are free of clods.

“Different conditions across the field can influence tuber damage levels, and as soils can be more cloddy around the tramlines, and it is a good idea to slow down in these areas and take extra care to avoid bruising.”

Plan ahead to minimise bruising

At the time of writing, summer weather conditions are very dry, and if they remain dry until lifting, the potatoes are unlikely to be as turgid as Andrew would ideally like. As a result, dry matter (DM) levels are likely to be high, increasing the tubers’ susceptibility to bruising.

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