New potato harvests in Estonia will be poor this year due to night frosts and low amounts of rainfall. According to potato growers, who spoke to ERR, there is still hope for later varieties provided there is more rain.
This year's early or 'new' potato harvest has been damaged by late night frosts, with the early summer drought not helping either, according to potato grower Kalle Hamburg. However, Hamburg still believes there is hope for later potato varieties.
"It's too early to cry, too soon to weep. The new potatoes have suffered from night frosts. There will be no bumper harvest. But it's too soon to panic now. Those that were planted later still have a chance if we get some decent rain now," Hamburg said.
This year's new potato yields could be up to 50 percent below normal levels, Hamburg said.
Terje Tähtjärve, a potato farmer at the Center of Estonian Rural Research and Knowledge (METK) Science, said that new potatoes also differ depending on their variety, how early they were planted and the region they are grown in. Nevertheless, this year's yield has been poor.
"We are not playing with the early varieties this year. The later varieties are in their early stages. There is still a chance to save them," he said.
According to Tähtjärve, despite the drought, the situation in potato fields is not so bad at the moment. Rain is definitely needed however.
"There is a water shortage, and if it persists while the potatoes are forming, there will be very few. If it doesn't rain at all, the potatoes will stop growing. Things can recover, but whether they grow depends on how well each variety can withstand the stress," he said.
According to Hamburg, more rain is needed than is expected to arrive. "The amount of rain forecast will not quench the thirst of the fields. There needs to be another 30 millimeters," he said.
Situation varies among regions
At the same time, the amount of precipitation in Estonia has varied greatly from region to region, and therefore so have the conditions in potato fields across the country.
"In Jõgeva County we've had tens of millimeters of rain, while in Lääne County the fields are yellow from drought. Estonia is a big country," Hamburg said.
According to the Environmental Board, rainfall has also varied widely in different parts of Estonia. Ristna, Tallinn and Kunda have had just 10 to 15 percent of the long-term average amount of rain, while Sõrve and Väike-Maarja have seen 79 and 69 percent respectively.
Last year, the spring and first half of summer were also dry, with rain only really starting in July and August. It was this, which saved the potato harvest, said Tähtjärve, though overall yields were still slightly below average.
However, the Environmental Board is now forecasting a much drier July this year than usual.
Latvians are also concerned about their potato harvest this year.
Maris Narvils, chief advisor at the Latvian Rural Advisory and Training Center, told Latvian national broadcaster LSM, that July will be a crucial month for the country's potato harvest, as in many regions there has been no rain up to now.
Only a few places have had the amount required for a normal harvest.
Editor: Michael Cole