Careful harvesting to store will maintain potato crop quality

Date published: 23 September 2020

As potato harvesting gets into full swing, attention to detail is important to ensure potato crops are not damaged and are correctly handled during store loading.

Robin Bolton is the Senior Crops Development Adviser at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise.

Initial indications are that potato markets will be well supplied this season so crop quality will be very important in ensuring successful marketing of the crop.

Robin Bolton, Senior Crops Development Adviser at the College of Agriculture, Food and Rural Enterprise (CAFRE) said: “Harvester set-up is key to ensuring successful harvesting. Daily samples should be taken from the harvester and hot boxed to check for any signs of bruising. If bruising is identified then further investigation can be carried out to determine the cause and settings can be adjusted to reduce the damage.

“The key areas to focus on are the following. Firstly, ensure wheel track and tyres are suitable for the drill and bed width to avoid compressing the drills. Then, align the share correctly to the primary web. Also, maintain a sufficient flow of soil up the primary web to ensure transfer of the potatoes on to the cleaning units. Make sure that the haulm rollers are set correctly and set cleaning units to the least aggressive setting that will provide a sufficient removal of soil and debris while minimising damage to the crop. Moreover, don’t over fill boxes to avoid damage by forklift toes. Finally, keep the drop during the transfer from the harvester to the trailer or box to a minimum. This is the most important point and requires good co-ordination between harvester operators and trailer drivers.”

Robin also pointed out that attention to detail must continue as the crop is moved into store. Quick drying of the crop is important ideally by positive ventilation systems. Following this the crop needs to be allowed sufficient time for curing to take place to heal any wounds caused during digging and grading before the crop can be cooled in store.

He continued: “Ideally when ventilating the crop the air used should be within 4 C of the tuber temperature. If the air used to ventilate is too warm condensation will occur which can increase skin disease on the crop. While the store is still being loaded aim to keep the temperature of potatoes in the store within 2-3 degrees of the potatoes being brought into the store and only once store loading is complete can the final pull down of the crop to the target store temperature be completed. For this reason, it is best to plan harvesting to allow stores to filled and sealed as quickly as possible.

“Finally when stores are being loaded consideration should be given to when various lots of potatoes may be marketed so that they can be accessed when necessary. Crops should be monitored regularly throughout the storage period so that any issues can be dealt with quickly.” 

Further details of potato store management can be found in the Store Managers Guide on the AHDB website.

Notes to editors: 

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