First earlies planted out

Planting of new season potatoes got underway on the Newtownards farm of William Gilmore (right) earlier this week. He was joined by Wilson's Country agronomist Stuart Meredith
Planting of new season potatoes got underway on the Newtownards farm of William Gilmore (right) earlier this week. He was joined by Wilson's Country agronomist Stuart Meredith

Planting of first early potatoes got underway this week on the Newtownards’ farm of William Gilmore. His Gilmore Farm Produce team planted 13 acres in total over a two day period – a mix of the varieties Home Guard and Accord.

“We are a full month behind with the planting of this year’s earlies,” William confirmed.

“Last year we got new season crop in the ground on February 15th. The problem this year has been the unrelenting rain that has been a feature of the weather since last October.

“Ground has only started to dry up over the past few days. We are planting the potatoes on land that was in cereals last year.”

William also confirmed that part of the new season crop will be covered with fleece.

“Soil temperatures are still quite low, in the region of 6 °C to 8 °C,” he explained.

“Putting down the fleece will help bring crops forward by about a week.”

Wilson’s Country agronomist Stuart Meredith visited Gilmore Farm Produce this week to see how the planting operation was progressing.

“If the weather holds, William could be digging new season potatoes by June 10th,” he explained.

“But, obviously, nobody can control the weather.”

Most of William’s early potatoes will be distributed by Wilson’s Country to TESCO outlets throughout Northern Ireland later this year. Stuart Meredith again: “Early potatoes are an extremely expensive crop to grow. The average cost is in the region of £2,000 per acre,” he said

“Given these circumstances, it is imperative for farmers to have guaranteed outlets for their produce before committing to grow crops of this nature

“Ongoing investment is also an important requirement for every farming business. In the case of William Gilmore, he has recently acquired a new potato planter.

“The machine has specifically designed to cause the least possible damage to the chitted tubers as they are placed in the drill.

“All of this comes at a price, which again highlights the absolute importance of having guaranteed markets for high value crops, such as new season potatoes.”