Frost Damages Early Potatoes in Ireland

Published online: May 15, 2020 Articles Stephen Robb
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Source: Irish Farmers Journal

Freezing conditions have caused severe damage to potato foliage in some areas around Ireland.

Nighttime temperatures this week dipped to 27 degrees Fahrenheit in some areas, resulting in localized ground frost. Temperatures in Katesbridge, Northern Ireland, reached 21 degrees on May 13.

Reports came through on Friday morning from growers around the country of damage to early and early-main crop potatoes. Damage to emerged foliage ranges from mild to severe. Crops planted on low-lying land appear to have been the worst affected.

The Irish Farmers Journal walked one severely affected crop in east Donegal belonging to potato farmer Jamie Rankin. Rankin explains that while no frost was forecasted, temperatures dipped to 32 degrees on 13 May which resulted in ground frost.

His early main crops of Rooster, Saxon and Queens have all suffered frost damage to some degree. His Rooster crop planted on lower-lying ground appears to have suffered the brunt of the damage.

Rankin says has never seen this level of frost damage before. This crop was around 10 days from tuber initiation.

The damage is confined to foliage above the ground. Minimal foliage has emerged on early-main crop and main crops and these will likely recover with limited negative impact. Early crops, which are more advanced, will likely be set back, meaning they could miss the early markets.

However, the country’s earliest-planted crops, which are mostly grown in Wexford, are nearing flowering. Frost damage to crops this advanced could result in total destruction, as they are unlikely to recover.

The extent of the damage is not likely to be confined to potato crops, with beets, vegetables and heading winter cereals at high risk.