Potatoes ‘must’ be picked before October because of nitrogen, and farmers are furious

Potatoes 'must' be picked before October because of nitrogen, and farmers are furious
Picking potatoes during National Potato Harvest Day, September 2, 2022

NOS Newsan average

Farmers are angry about the Cabinet’s decision on potatoes. Potatoes on sandy and loamy soils must be harvested before October 1 and replaced with the so-called catch crop, which absorbs a lot of nitrogen. If farmers leave potatoes in the ground longer, they can use less nitrogen the following year.

Farmers hoped that potatoes would be on the list of so-called winter crops. These are crops that are harvested late in the year and then no longer need to be replaced by a catch crop that is still extracting nitrogen from the soil.

“Growth in September and October is essential”

According to the agricultural organization LTO, the impact of the decision is significant. “Potatoes need to grow in September and October to get enough yield. The average harvest time has also been delayed in recent years, which is related to climate change.”

LTO also fears that too many potatoes will be on the market at the same time in September. “Storage and processing capacity cannot be cost-effectively increased before October 1.”

The October harvest in particular

But according to the government, there is no room for growing winter potatoes intended for consumption: “The harvest takes place pretty much before or at the latest in October. These potato plants are sprayed to death before harvesting, so that less nitrogen is absorbed than when the plant dies.” slowly, so seeding the catch crop is necessary to absorb any remaining nutrients.”

Nitrogen is found in manure and can end up in the water. If there is little nitrogen left in the soil, this is good for water quality. The rule applies to sand and loess because these soils retain nitrogen less well than loamy and peat soils. Slightly more than half of the potatoes consumed are grown on sand or loess, especially in the southeastern Netherlands.

Small fries and french fries

The Potato Processing Industry Association (VAVI) called the decision dramatic. “A lower yield will eventually lead to lower income for the potato sector, both from growers and processors,” says Andres Medaj, Director of VAVI. French fries makers such as Aviko, Farm Frites, and McCain’s are members of VAVI. Afternoon predicts that some farmers will actually harvest before October 1st, so the potatoes and french fries will be smaller.

Thus the part of the farmers who leave potatoes until after October can use less nitrogen the next year. As a result, according to Madagh, yields will drop next year. This is not about potatoes, but other crops such as grains, onions and beets. Because a year after planting potatoes, the farmer always switches to something else for three years.

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