Farmers race to save potato crop

Donegal’s hard-pressed farmers have been making the most of the dry weather over the last few days, trying to salvage as many potatoes as possible.

Donegal’s hard-pressed farmers have been making the most of the dry weather over the last few days, trying to salvage as many potatoes as possible.

Just a fortnight ago, the Donegal Democrat/People’s Press reported that farmers in the north of the county had only been able to harvest about 10% of this year’s crop. Charlie Doherty, who farms 110 acres of potatoes in the Bridgend/Burt area said that normally, by the end of October, 60-70% of the potatoes would have been lifted.

He said yesterday that, after working flat out over the weekend, things were starting to look up. “It’s the first dry spell we’ve had since May. About 30% of the crop is gone, that can’t be salvaged at all. There are some places where we still have to let the potatoes sit . You can’t just take the bad and good out together, because the disease will spread. And the 10 acres of cereal that I planted is gone as well. Once it starts to sprout, there’s nothing you can do.

“We’ve been working from 6.30 in the morning right through to midnight. It was slow going on Friday and Saturday because, even though the weather was dry, the ground was still sodden and we had to do a lot of towing. We had a good run at it on Sunday, though, and got through about five acres. “Everybody’s doing their best. Please God the dry weather will continue and it won’t be so bad in the end. I won’t know exactly how what percentage we’ll be able to salvage until they’re all out.”

PJ McMonagle, chairman of Donegal IFA, added: “Most farmers still have 50-60% of their crop in the ground and they can only dig out 5 acres per day, so it’s a race against time and weather.”