First of the potatoes

Growers in the Comber area of Co Down took advantage of last week’s spell of dry weather to plant the first of the season’s potatoes.

One of the first farmers to begin planting operations was Mr John Herron of Ballyhenry, Comber, who, although he started work last Monday afternoon, reckons he is about a week later than last year’s starting time.

“Provided the weather remains favourable,” he said, “I hope to get the whole crop into the ground in the very near future.”

Mr Herron, who this season plans on growing about 15 acres of “earlies,” told FarmWeek that planting conditions were not perfect.

“The ground is fairly wet but workable,” he said, “and given a few more days without rain it should be in tip-top condition.”

Early potato yields were hit last year by attacks of frost and a general scarcity of home produced earlies brought high prices to growers.

“It’s difficult to decide which is the lesser of the two evils,” said Mr Herron. “You can either have a low yield due to frost and receive high prices, or, after harvesting a ‘bumper’ crop, find prices at rock-bottom.”

Another grower, Mr David McAlpin of Castleavery, Comber, plans on putting in around 20 acres of Ballydoons if the weather continues favourable.

“The severe overnight frost is our biggest enemy at the moment,” he said. “The ground is so hard on some days that we are not able to begin planting until late afternoon.

“Planting is being done about the same time as last year and I hope to get all the crop in before there is a change in the weather.”

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