Potatoes are not a cheap crop to grow

Winter reminded us that '˜it hasn't gone away you know' courtesy of the Arctic blast we endured over the past couple of days.

But let’s hope that’s the end of that and normal service will be resumed – at least as far as the weather is concerned – as we head towards the weekend.

When the weather deteriorates, most livestock farmers have a Plan B: they can bring their cattle and sheep in until ground conditions improve. But for potato growers it really is a case of taking it all on the chin.

Northern Ireland’s arable sector has been battered by the weather like no other. One has only to think back to the summer of 2012 for confirmation of this.

So let’s hope potato growers are allowed to get on with their field work in an orderly manner: working with the weather – rather than fighting against it – over the coming weeks.

There is no other industry so dependent on the weather than is agriculture. It is possible to control many aspects of a farm business. But when it comes to nature’s most powerful force, farmers have to accept what comes their way.

Numerous conferences have been held over recent months, focussing on the issue of Global Warming. But who really knows what’s coming down the track? For the most part, farmers are pretty sanguine when it comes to dealing with the challenges that confront them.

But, irrespective of what happens in the future, no one can deny that it rains a lot in Northern Ireland. In many other parts of the world water availability is the all-important and limiting factor when it comes to determining crop yields. This is rarely a problem for us, which is why our farming industry is so inherently productive.

But too much of a good thing is bad: so let’s hope the rain doesn’t outstay its welcome during the weeks and months ahead!

Potatoes are not a cheap crop to grow. Seed, fertiliser and land rental charges continue to increase.

Growers need a good year to compensate for these factors: let’s hope they get it!

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