Good weather for SC potato gowers

GERALD PIDDOCK
Last updated 13:31 09/05/2012

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South Canterbury potato growers look to be digging up a bumper crop this season as harvesting gets well underway.

The region has about 35 growers, growing a variety of commercial varieties.

Nationwide, the industry has more than 200 growers who produce around half a million tonnes of potatoes from just over 10,000 hectares of arable farmland.

Winchester grower Nick Tayler said the harvest had gone exceptionally well.

The crop yields were about average, although they were above last year.

The crop did not suffer from heat stress and the cooler wetter weather provided good growing conditions, he said.

The wet summer meant a cooler, longer growing season and had meant savings in irrigation costs.

"We have irrigated probably only half of what we irrigated last year, so there's been a big reduction in power savings and water use," he said.

He was unaware of psyllid being a major issue for South Canterbury potato growers.

Most growers had been proactive through monitoring and were prepared to act if the pest were found on their crops.

Psyllid numbers were down as a result of the cool, wet summer, Temuka grower Murray Turley said.

It had been an excellent season for potato growers in South Canterbury.

"It's been fantastic weather for growing potatoes."

Potatoes New Zealand business manager Ron Gall said it had been a fantastic growing season with most yields above average.

The wet summer masked the impact of psyllid, which thrives in hot, dry weather. Growers had not had a such a summer for four years, Gall said.

The total value of New Zealand's potato industry in the year to March 2011 was $143 million at the farm gate.

The total retail and export value of the potato industry, including what householders and restaurants buy, what is bought by local processors and what is exported, is estimated at $382m a year.

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- The Timaru Herald

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