Farmer ignores deadline for harvesting potatoes

Almost two weeks to go before farmers must have harvested the potatoes for consumption. This is a government requirement, because winter cultivation must start on October 1. But many farmers do not want to get the potatoes out of the ground yet because the crops are not yet fully grown.

One of those farmers is Henk Bosma from Zuidvelde. He has almost 300 hectares of potatoes. He harvests half, they are already ready. But the other half is still green and that means not ripe. “They need another month,” says Bosma. “If I take them out of the ground and store them in the shed, they rot away. That’s because the skin is not yet hard enough.”

And so he just leaves them for another month. “Yes, of course, what else should I do? Calendar farming? That’s not possible.” A catch crop must be sown in the fields from October 1. That is a plant that has to absorb nitrogen. But potatoes do that too, the farmers say.

The LTO also states that working with a calendar is not feasible. “Due to the cold and wet spring, the potatoes were planted later. As a result, they are not yet ready for harvest,” explains farmer Erik Emmens. He is a director at LTO Noord and expects that the majority of potato farmers will not start harvesting until October.

That has consequences. Farmers who do not harvest the potatoes before October 1 may use less nitrogen next year. “That is dramatic,” says Emmens. “That potato needs nitrogen. And we really don’t use more than necessary.”

So a choice between two evils, you might think. But according to LTO there is no choice. “We are not going to solve next year’s problem now. If you now dig up potatoes that are not ready yet, you can throw away your entire harvest and you will have no yield. So that is not going to happen. We hope that the government will do well again think and trust the farmers. They know what they are doing and also have ideas about how to best solve this.”

It is not yet clear how the government wants to check whether the potatoes are out of the ground before October 1.